Napster, The Movie; What Happened To The Film?
With all this fuss over The Social Network, it got Tamara Conniff, the founder of The Comet, wondering why a movie about Napster never found its way into production. It would make a riveting plot. All of the elements are there and like The Social Network, those plot pieces that aren't there could be made up along the way. Plus, a number of creditable authors have written accounts about the service—that aren't mostly based on speculation and fictionalization. Not that Accidental Billionaires, the book that served as inspiration for the movie, has those characteristics; it does. And it also has some of the worst Amazon reviews that I've ever seen. Anyways, there's plenty to be said about Napster.
Though, to be sure, like The Social Network, the movie would probably miss the point. Legal scholar Larry Lessig argues that a key statement missing from the film—that he hoped moviegoers would grasp—is that the barriers to creating something like Facebook are much, much lower. He fears that none of the audience members that saw the film understood that none of them need permission to create something like Facebook or anything on the web.
Instead, they are left with the sense that Facebook is a creation of genius and unattainable to average people. But that's just not true. Lessig writes, "what’s important here is that Zuckerberg’s genius could be embraced by half-a-billion people within six years of its first being launched, without (and here is the critical bit) asking permission of anyone. The real story is not the invention. It is the platform that makes the invention sing. Zuckerberg didn’t invent that platform."
So, if The Social Network missed that one, what key points would a movie about Napster miss? Who would be the victims—the fans who would later get sued or the labels protecting their assets? It's an interesting thought. What would the general public learn about the event and communities like ours be shaking our heads about? From the perspective of Conniff, we've probably got nothing to worry about, because a movie about Napster will likely never get made. First because it would have to deal with the nuances of copyright. Second, who would want to see a film that places Lars Ulrich as the villain? Here's Conniff's take:
"I think happened to the Napster movie. Any film that needs to tackle the nuance of copyright law and the ridiculously complicated rights associated with recorded music, would fail miserably. The only people who would go see it would be the music industry... I guess the other problem was no one really wanted to see a film where Metallica's Lars Ulrich, who was vocal about his band's suit against Napster, be portrayed as a villain. And who would play him in the film anyway?" (Read on.)