Lars Ulrich on Suing Napster: 'I Think That History Has Proved That We Were Somewhat Right'

Metallica drummer notes that Napster debate will "be in the first five sentences of my obituary."

Lars Ulrich on Suing Napster: 'I Think That History Has Proved That We Were Somewhat Right'
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Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has been talking to Huffington Post about the legacy of the band's infamous lawsuit against Napster. As Ulrich concedes, the band wasn’t quite prepared for what they got themselves into. "We weren't quite prepared for the sh-tstorm that we became engulfed in. It started out as a street fight ... There was a song we were working on for the 'Mission Impossible II' movie called 'I Disappear' that all of a sudden showed up on radio stations across the country ... it wasn't even mixed, it wasn't even finalized ... We were like, 'How did that happen?' I got a call from our office the next day : 'It traces back to something called Napster.' And we were like, 'Well, they f--ked with us, we'll f''k with them.'" The drummer also iterates that his decision to take the file sharing network to court was not motivated by greed, but the idea of personal choice: "We stood our ground and fought the fight. Obviously it was a difficult time. It's not easy being finger wagged at that level. Especially because the Napster people were really smart in that they made the whole fight about money and: 'Metallica are technologically inept and they don't want to give stuff away for free' and we were like, 'Hang on, it's not about money. It's about control. It's about whose choice should it be.' We were saying it should be our choice. I we wanna give our stuff away, we'll give our stuff away. That's a no brainer, but that should be our choice. The choice was taken away ... They made the 'it's about money' argument way louder and they were very smart." Ulrich also believes that the band was "somewhat right" in doing what they did, even if it has come to define him in the public eye: "13 years later, it was what it was. I'm proud of the fact that we stood up at the time and I think that history has proved that we were somewhat right.

"It'll be in the first five sentences of my obituary, and I sort of accept that for better or worse." What do you think. Has history proved Ulrich right? Or do you still feel that the band was wrong to take Napster to court? Let us know in the comments.

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    pfinnegan
    As much as Lars can be annoying, Metallica were definitely in the right with the Napster thing. I thought it then and I still believe it. I did not have a lot of money for music purchases over the years (and i listen to a lot of music), especially when I discovered bands who had a large back catalog, and I have downloaded my share. However, I always knew it wasn't the "right" thing to do, but I did it anyway because I couldn't afford the music otherwise. When Metallica stepped up to Napster and said "our music is not yours to give away," it was hard to argue with that. Hell, if I had any real talent, I wouldn't want my music being given away either (I would probably follow some of my newer favorite bands, who sell an album for 5 bucks on band camp). Lars is not everyone's favorite musician, but it's not fair that he is being bashed because he objected to people stealing his music.
    javdoc
    "Hell, if I had any real talent, I wouldn't want my music being given away either" Good point. For all the people who joked about Metallica spending "24-48 hours writing and recording" songs [which, given some of their lengthy recording sagas, we know to be false], if making music people wanted to hear was that easy, everyone would be doing it....
    jrodgers
    I think this is the best point that has been made on the issue, and it could only be made after time has passed and both sides have cooler heads. We ALL KNEW deep down that sharing wasn't really right, but we did it anyway because we're addicted to music and didn't have the money to get all the music we wanted any other way.
    Le-Mat
    Yeah, it's all about tricky terminology and "sharing" word is kinda key. "Sharing" doesn't sound like "stealing", right? Sounds innocent. And let's face it, even most honest, hardocre fan would eagerly turn to free stuff if it's available. Back then I had no internet access, I bought "I disappear" single, it was a blessing for me it was available in market, cause I had and still have absolutely no interest in the rest of MI-II soundtrack. I was never much of a hardcore fan, and I'm not innocent. And I was always using an excuse- "I have all their CD's so I why can't I have their mp3's on my player". Never the less I miss times of late night radio auditions when you were hunting some cool stuff with a cassette recorder. [Edited due to elaborated digressions and lack of point caused by fever]
    jrodgers
    With technology being what it is, file sharing (both the way it is now and will progress in the future) was inevitable. The minute Napster launched was already the end of the music and media business as we know it. At the time, Lars was right to get a word in on it, but its a shame that he and his lawyers werent forward thinking enough to realize that suing a bunch of fans wouldn't do jack s*** other than making them look like greedy *******s.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    without this spotify might not exist so in a way it's good that it happened, since the spoitfy revenue is indispensable for lesser known bands and labels.
    TomWhaley
    Actually, artists post photos of their monthly Spotify checks each month. Most of the time, they receive less than a dollar for their plays. I've seen checks for $0.05 and checks for $0.19. Thom Yorke is also extremely anti-Spotify, along with plenty of other artists. So, without Napster and Spotify, maybe artists would still get paid for their music...
    TheSilverBeatle
    Artists do get paid for their music. Where are you getting your information? Ever heard of concerts? Even before pirating artists made more money off concerts than album sales. You realize you are on a website that "illegally" provides tabs for songs right? Did you forget that musicians and publishers decided that free tablature online was an infringement of their rights? And ultimate-guitar posted a news article bragging about how they were based in Russia and that they could not be shut down by American publishing companies. The internet has revolutionized the world in many ways, and the ability to download music for free is part of that. The music industry has proven itself to be run by incompetent fools unable to change with the times and that is why they suffered for so long, only recently have they realized...hey maybe we can use the internet to our advantage. I'm pretty sure Thom Yorke is sleeping on a bed of money, so good for him for being anti-Spotify. Maybe he should invest in up and coming bands? Radiohead are the ones who came up with the whole "pay what you want" idea, and I think that's a good model. People who couldn't afford the album otherwise are able to pay what little they can and people who want to support the band can pay/donate as much as they want. The world has been completely changed by the internet. It allows an unprecedented access to information around the world and allows for mass communication on a scale never seen in human history. In the words of Bob Dylan, "you better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a changin'" The music industry can keep hoping for the golden days or it can get with the times. There's plenty of money to be made (since that's what's music is about according to this thread) it's just not going to be made the same way it was in the past.
    GhostPlayground
    The main monetary issue is and will always be that a person can't really say that they don't have a lot of money to pay artists for music, when they're spending money on internet access to download music. Also, when did musicians become fixated on making money. Wouldn't it make more sense to make good music, show it to people and if they enjoy your music give it to them for free so they can enjoy and spread your music throughout the internet rather than post it as a download on a website with a sea of other equally talented bands and expect money to magically appear in their pockets.
    gypsyblues7373
    "Also, when did musicians become fixated on making money." Maybe when they have to eat? Or keep a roof over their families' heads?
    DisarmGoliath
    Spotify is little better than illegal torrenting - aside from Spotify not being a decent business model for themselves (aren't they haemorrhaging money still?), they pay tiny percentages for each play. Even huge artists get proportionally miniscule payments for millions of plays. These days, most bands have to settle for making money from merch sales and ticket sales, hence so many bands touring most of the year, and other bands resorting to crowdfunding sites to try and take some financial power away from music sales.
    bee.ryan.12
    and a good way to advertise those concerts and events would be to allow some of yours songs for downloading ... at a good (say 128Kbps bit rate) and mayabe leave the 256Kps for the people who really love the band (and buy the high def audio DVD, CD, lossless recoding, etc...)
    metallica_102
    I never understood why people took issue with action being taken against Napster, why is it wrong for artists to try and protect their work?
    wembly
    Because of the whole "It was about money thing" People just seemed to forget that their UN MIXED, UN RELEASED track was being played on the ****ing radio, without their permission. But no, people liked to put lars in a bad light.
    TheSilverBeatle
    I guess they never got around to mixing it, because it sounds exactly the same as when I downloaded it on Napster back in the day. I'm sure they didn't make a cent off recording a song for Mission Impossible 2. It's all about the music when you're recording a song for a shitty action movie with Tom Cruise, definitely not about the money at all.
    javdoc
    They were 100% correct to take action. What was occurring with Napster was theft. Music is obviously a trickier matter than say a can of Diet Coke, as you can hear it on the radio for free, but in either case, you can't simply take something because you think it's priced too high, or because you figure Metallica/Coca Cola have made enough money already. Anyone who thinks otherwise, I have some work here on my desk I'd be happy to outsource to you for free....
    henrihell
    While it's true that you can hear music for free on the radio, you can't choose what you want to listen to and the musicians still get money for it. With the diet coke reference: someone bought a diet coke and shared it with you. You got your diet coke for free, but someone still paid for it.
    Kaseke
    With the diet coke reference: someone bought a diet coke and shared it with you. You got your diet coke for free, but someone still paid for it. No but when you share a diet coke, you only get a part of it. When music is shared, many people get the full product for free, with just one paying for it.
    tonello
    I look at as more of when you get a diet coke from a friend we'll say. He bought it and gave you one. You can choose when to drink that diet coke, but once it's gone, you can't reuse the coke. With music, you can listen to it immediately, and when the song's over, you can listen to it again. And again. And again. And again. It's not a one time thing. So if someone pays for the song and they give it to you, you're receiving a product with no expiration date (unless it's Miley Cyrus).
    tonello
    The Diet Coke analogy works best like this: A friend buys a 12 pack of Diet Coke. You guys are hanging out and he decides to give you one. You can then choose to drink that Diet Coke now or later, but you know that once you finish it, it's gone forever. You will then have to take another one of you're friend's Diet Cokes or go buy your own. Music doesn't work that way. Here is the same situation, but with music. A friend buys the new Metallica EP. You guys are hanging out, and he gives you a copy of the disk. You either put that CD on your computer immediately after you get home, or wait a week, but you know that once you do, you will have those songs forever. You will not have to get another copy from
    rmack4341
    Kind of surprised at all the comments agreeing with Lars. Usually when UG puts up a piracy story, I see a bunch of whiney hipsters complaining about corporate crap or pointing out that 'everyone does it', or trying to explain that stealing music isn't actually 'stealing', as if you need a physical product in order to break the law. Comments have been refreshing so far, people actually using their brains. Be interesting to see the kinds of posts after a half day or so though. I'm just waiting for the hipsters and idiots to pick apart the Lars quote. Come on dummies, we're waiting.....
    rolandroi
    Maybe because when they released LuLu, metallica fans soon realized that the rest of their albums were worth something.
    Le-Mat
    Maybe it's due to the fact MetallicA fans use brains developed by listening to Hetfield's lyrics?
    zalant
    I love James as much as the next hardcore Metallica fan, but I don't know if I'd go that far.
    TheSilverBeatle
    Can't tell if troll... or someone whose never actually listened to a good lyricist before. Hetfield didn't become famous based on his lyrical abilities that's for sure.
    RCA1186
    He's was right about it, and even further he should have found the ass who leaked the track in the first place
    lefty311
    The fact that they had to file a lawsuit also masked the fact that they weren't doing it for the money. Immediately, people see the word 'lawsuit' and assume it's entirely about money. They were 100% right in what they did and good for them sticking to their guns.
    wembly
    I would hate to think about how much money they lost from the whole procedure. Then idiots refusing to buy their records because Metallica expect you to pay for their work.
    javdoc
    I also think it's pretty ironic that for all people on here like to praise bands like Tool, AC/DC and Pink Floyd for holding out from letting their music go on iTunes [for which they get paid - maybe not well, but paid nonetheless] there would be any question as to whether it was right for Metallica to object when their music was being stolen.
    negativefx
    There was no reasonable option for them to sell their music online back then. It was Napster or nothing. Sure there were sites like audiogalaxy that did the same thing as napster in principal, but there wasn't a reasonable alternative to stealing... no online music shops until *after* the napster shitstorm.
    DvanG
    It is not about the availability of their music. It's about the choice of giving it away or not and about the choice on how to distribute it. I get that. btw don't think air time is free. Radio gets payed by advertizers who pay their advertizement by charging you a little extra on the stuff you buy, so you'll buy more of it. And to make sure you listen to it, they cram it in between Metallica and Britneyspears songs on air.
    DaFjory
    It all comes down to the intention and 'morals' of the downloader. Had I not downloaded For Whom The Bell Tolls, I wouldn't have bought their first 5 albums. Simple as that. Downloading is one of the sole reasons as to why I have 400+ CDs today. *shrug*
    eatfresh1736
    I believe that Lars was totally justified in suing Napster. You can rationalize music piracy all you want (I download a lot, so I'm not exactly innocent), but when it comes down to the law ("Law": Not subject to our opinions), it's wrong to steal music. HOWEVER, whenever Lars speaks, I just wanna punch him. Not for any specific reason. He just has one of those faces. It's nothing personal.
    TheSilverBeatle
    You talk about the law like it wasn't created by man. Law is exactly the result of our opinions and specifically our opinions of what is wrong and what's right. Is it wrong to "steal" music? Isn't music art? Art is defined as: "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power." Why shouldn't music be free to listen too? Music existed for hundreds of years before capitalism came around and everyone enjoyed it and musicians created because it was what made them happy not because they thought they could get rich off it. I'm sure when Metallica was starting out they would give free CD's or Tapes to anyone who would listen but once they became rich and content it was suddenly a problem for people to be enjoying their art for free. It was no longer about connecting with an audience, it was about "hey, I need another swimming pool in my backyard and because of Napster I'm only making half a million dollars for playing a god damn instrument for a living! Forget the fact that people who do important work like doctors get paid a fraction of what I make, I need more money."
    tonello
    You mentioned the doctor who makes a fraction of what Lars Ulrich makes. What if the doctor was told that his services would be used and he was not allowed to receive any pay for them. People would want him to take care of their illnesses and their surgeries, but he was not to make a penny off of it. Well, your reasoning would be that healthcare is different. But if music is free (music being a non necessity to life) then shouldn't the healthcare provided by the doctor be free? Yeah, when Metallica started out, they gave away tapes. Because it was their music to do with what they wanted. People didn't break into the studio and steal their tapes to give out to the public. Metallica chose to give away music because it would get their name out. And then people who liked what they heard would BUY more music. Napster with "I Disappear" was a lot different. Metallica didn't choose to give away their music. They had been hacked and their music was then distributed without their permission. Music that wasn't even mastered, and had only been recorded. Do you see a problem here? Of course you don't. Music is art and art should be available for free. Besides the fact that most musicians who played in the Classical period were payed very handsomely. They did something that the rest of the people couldn't. Play a ****ing instrument and play it well. It's easy to be jealous when you're on the outside looking in, but if you had some talent and were in the same position as Lars, when the shit hits the fan, even you would say "Wow, Napster. Fuck off."
    gypsyblues7373
    You must not be a musician, because it's baffling that there are people like you who don't understand that musicians make music FOR A LIVING. Sure, musicians have to love what they do and love creating music, but they don't want to go broke or starve over it either. Otherwise they'd all have to put up their instruments, get "normal" 9 to 5 jobs and then there'd be no music for morons like you to steal.
    FrankenFoot
    The piracy or music will never die. I agree that the artists should make money, but the fact is torrents allow anyone access to anything. Prior to torrents, there were file sharing apps like Napster. Prior to that, we burned CD copies and dubbed tapes for our friends. Prior to that, there was magazine tape sharing, something Metallica has given credit to as being a reason they were discovered.
    razor_mann
    If memory serves me right..I believe that a Metallica cd cost around $25 to $30 in Canada around the time napster hit..that was retarded..In a way napster helped stabilize the market from greedy record labels and brought it back down to affordable levels
    Unf
    Funny thing is, I totally agree with him , but I'll keep downloading music from torrents, now that's hypocrisy!
    ryanbwags
    I remember him saying something to the effect of "There were a lot of other bands behind us when I started talking about this. When i did it, they were all nowhere to be found." Sounded like a lot of his friends in the business suddenly disappeared when he stepped up. He didn't back down, though.