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."

Ultimate Guitar

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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    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.
    "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....
    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.
    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]
    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.
    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.
    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...
    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.
    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.
    "Also, when did musicians become fixated on making money." Maybe when they have to eat? Or keep a roof over their families' heads?
    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.
    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...)
    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?
    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.
    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.
    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....
    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.
    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.
    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).
    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
    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.....
    Maybe because when they released LuLu, metallica fans soon realized that the rest of their albums were worth something.
    Maybe it's due to the fact MetallicA fans use brains developed by listening to Hetfield's lyrics?
    I love James as much as the next hardcore Metallica fan, but I don't know if I'd go that far.
    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.
    He's was right about it, and even further he should have found the ass who leaked the track in the first place
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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*
    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.
    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."
    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."
    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.
    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.
    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
    Funny thing is, I totally agree with him , but I'll keep downloading music from torrents, now that's hypocrisy!
    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.
    Year Zero
    Lars is right whether or not you think he's a prick or not. Music sales suck now and about the worst thing you can do in 2013 is start a band simply because rock and metal sales are even worse then the pop. You don't walk into a art gallery and steal the pictures , same applies to music.
    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.....
    He was right in sueing them and it's a shame Napster made it look like it was about the money.
    In principal, it wasn't hard to support Metallica for suing Napster. One can argue it many ways, but in the end, the final product was people downloading music without paying for it.What I think really polarized people (and Napster used this to their advantage) was HOW Lars went about it. He turned into this yappy, mouthy little bitch. Honestly, those Camp Chaos cartoon parodies of Metallica weren't much of a caricature of Lars' attitude and personality during this time frame. Bottom line, they should have quietly went against Napster with as little drama as possible and left it at that. Dragging fans into it and naming them as part of suits was what really turned the public support away from Metallica. Lawyers and the PR folks should have just told Lars to STFU and stop talking to the press and all would have been fine. He's a hothead and his mouth is what basically turned support away from Metallica in what should have been a pretty clear-cut case. But then again, this is status quo for Lars. The worse thing that ever happened was him learning English, because he hasn't STFU since... So I'll agree and say that yes, Metallica were at least "somewhat right" in the Napster case.
    Agree with you about Lars but remember that Napster at that time was "revolutionary" and had a terrific impact years to come for the whole music (and software) industry. Think Lars was mature about his judgment, piracy on a massive scale!! Sure piracy exists and always existed but not at that scale before. Still, the music industry, despite the Internet and the file sharing did not react in a clever way. There was no way of stopping the evolution of the net. Look now, where can you buy music? Store? not anymore. Itunes yes...that is it..seriously..what a joke. Where 50% of the benefits goes to Apple and the rest to the music company. Music industry still has not reach the bottom yet to realize they can get massive cash if they were organized and up to date.
    "I think that history has proved that we were somewhat right." Lars, I could go download your entire work history in 5 minutes, and the amount of people that WON'T give a shit will make your head spin. I'm not saying you were right or wrong, but record labels suing one out of every 10 million people that pirate music doesn't mean history was or will be on your side.
    ur a moron...try n make a living makin music a hole
    Why would a want to make music a hole? Or do you just lack enough basic grammar skills to try and call me an a-hole?
    ur still an AHole...moron
    Allow me to settle this - As people, we are all equal, therefore, you are both morons and *******s. Thank you for your time.
    Allow me to settle this - As people, we are all equal, therefore, you are both morons and *******s. Thank your for your time.
    the lesson here is to hold on to your shit better, or the wind will carry it every radio station in america! Napster revolutionized file sharing in a sorts, though some people think negatively about it, thats their fair opinion
    Piracy is the worst thing to do of you love music. It doesn't support your favourote artist the way they deserve...
    Some people on here won't even know what Napster used to be. That in itself, is sad.
    Then why don't you enlighten us with your history of Napster instead of discounting everyone else as sad, because they didn't read Wikipedia like you?
    He is just old and feels like anyone who doesn't know the same things as him is a sad human being. That being said, I'm 23 and I had Napster. It was basically the first P2P downloading program, before Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire and whatever else followed.
    Have to agree with him, in my humble opinion its stealing. It costs money for bands to make music. It is also pointless to continue this debate, there are too many d-bags out there that feel they are entitled to anything and everything they don't have.
    If it's any consolation to multimillionaire Lars, I have bought all of their 80s stuff. But you couldn't PAY ME to buy anything they did since. Thumbs down if you like this comment fanboys.
    Funny thing is, I totally agree with him , but I'll keep downloading music from torrents, now that's hypocrisy!
    Everyone on this site sucks metallicas balls
    'fraid not i think they are fairly boring and massivly overated, however that dosent stop Lars being right and suprisingly magnanimous about it
    I dod'nt think its right but I still think lars is a ****ing greedy ****. its not like they were eating out of a ****ing dumpster.
    I'm pretty sure most people have downloaded at least a song or two in their time, but it doesn't make it right. I would object too if someone was stealing my music. I just love the fact that UG found the most cocky and smug picture of Lars to accompany this article You don't read this very often here, but bravo, UG.
    Musicians actually don't make a lot of money off music sales...unless they ARE a band like Metallica. The majority of money would come from ticket sales and merchandise but Metallica probably gets a higher amount of royalties for music than most other bands do. I agree that the artist should have control, but showing up to Napster with boxes of users who downloaded the music is going over the greed motivation line.
    People should stop acting like spoiled little babies and stop complaining cause it doesn't help. You have to make the people want to buy music. So think of a system where people don't mind paying for music and the record labels still make money. I know artists care too, but it's usually the pressure from the label that makes artist say stuff about how piracy is evil in the media. The only way you can completely stop piracy is by controlling the internet entirely. Even that would be impossible since pedophiles are trading child porn on massive scale and nobody has any idea where it's going or coming from.
    It should be the artists' choice, and in a way it is. You can stop early releases by not placing your unfinished work in the hands of untrustworthy people. You can't stop illegal downloading of released works because its done too widely. Lars has better chances of convincing the world he's not still hiding in the closet than he does stopping illegal metallica torrents. I download music cuz I cant afford it. Simple as that. Sorry if it hurts someone down the road but I can't afford to care until I can afford the vinyl collection I'm still dreaming of.
    What type of fantasy land do you live in where you can look at someone and automatically know if they're trustworthy? I'm sure Metallica didn't look at the leaker(s) and go "Man, he looks like a shifty bastard but we're gonna give him the unfinished tapes anyway."
    Which I agree with, I'm just wondering how it got leaked then if it wasn't even finished. Who let it slip? That should have been the real question. Had Lars waged war on the act of leaking currently unreleased materials, claiming how easily unfinished material could be claimed as someone elses work, he'd have had so much more support. His goal was right, but his approach was so easy for Napster to pick apart and turn around on him.
    Once again Ultimate Guitar shows they have their finger on the pulse with current events in music. At least Lars didn't "Slam Napster".
    I think musicians, myself included, should get real jobs... art is free i think the internet proved that
    Yar har, fiddle di dee, Being a pirate is all right with me, Do what you want 'cause a pirate is free, You are a pirate!
    This was a surprisingly interesting thread. It can't sensibly be argued that Napster were in the right. The issue of what you "should" pay for music is a separate issue as is how music should be delivered to the listener. As has been said, all of those things should be the artist's choice not the choice of some computer nerd. Napster were simply thieves although they managed to sway the mentality of the media into pushing it as a David versus Goliath moneygrabbers battle.....and let's face it....sometimes Lars looks and sounds a tit so he did make their job easier....!
    Old guy mode: Back when the whole issue with napster begun internet was not in every home and didn't have the speed it has now. Some of the things shared (music, movies, tv series, games etc etc) most of the times were not available everywhere and even their existence was unknown. In a sense with napster people around the world had the opportunity to be exposed in the cultural products of other countries easier and a lot faster, from some real gems to utter crap. For certain types of music there was never a try before you buy, since most music stores wouldn't carry these records and no radio would play them. It was not impossible to find these records or CD's but the only information you had was magazine reviews that were quite biased most of the times. The argument made by the napster supporters was that the musicians themselves that fought napster were mainly pop stars with awful songs and no artistic creativity that were getting a small percentage of the earnings anyway. It was mostly about how they were being the lapdogs of the musical industry. That didn't make it legal, but due to the sharing community, media distribution has changed a lot along with the availability of internet high speed. Now everybody has the opportunity to try before buy, have digital formats that cost less, being on internet radio stations, being exposed to wider audiences. Sure the big names may not be making as much money as they used to, but a lot of the mid level and smaller bands would have remained in obscurity. And Metallica as well as the rest of the rock-metal bands became known and made money in the beginning and a big part of their careers by making tours and concerts after concerts. People that didn't want to buy the music or couldn't afford it would copy the music anyway (anybody remember tape trading?) but not of course in such a massive scale. So while it was an illegal way to share music it has helped change the music industry to a point. And while I understand the desire of musicians, actors, creators to be able to make a living by their craft it is very evident of what mostly comes out by dealing with art as a product and having music, film and whatever else industries deciding what would sell more rather if there is a substance to what they are producing.
    And have Metallica ever exercised their right to give their records away for free?
    Isn't there some kind of metallica vault or something where they give away live recordings for free?