New documentary explores rise of Napster and the ‘culture of free’
The New York Times recently released a mini documentary for its Retro Report series detailing the rise and fall of Napster, and the era of pirating that it birthed. Barely over 12 minutes, the documentary skims over the lifespan of Napster, from its inception in the Northeastern University dorm room of freshman Shawn Fanning. Developer Ali Aydar, who helped program Napster, speaks in the documentary about his own moral uncertainty before agreeing to help launch the program. Once he learned there were already 40,000 people using Napster, he says he “changed his tune.”
He says he “realized that people’s emotional ties to music, their general interest in music…was more than enough to overwhelm any kind of security or privacy concerns.”
The documentary also chronicles the height and decline of the CD boom of the late 90s, and largely places Napster as the catalyst for that decline.
Former Universal VP Albhy Galuten also speaks in the interview, and he admits the record labels also played a role in the demise of physical record sales. He pretty much admits the industry was late in the game in terms of recognizing a shift toward digital music, and never paid attention to the habits and mentality of a younger consumer base.
“We didn’t really factor in the consumer adoption, the youthful lack of respect for copyright, and the anonymity would combine to make it [Napster] a pretty unstoppable as a model,” he says.
Watch the full documentary below.