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Any film that needs to tackle the nuance of copyright law and the ridiculously complicated rights associated with recorded music would fail miserably.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE NAPSTER MOVIE?
Tamara Conniff Ponders Napster in the Wake of Facebook

Tamara Conniff is a well-respected music industry pundit who has just launched TheComet.com, which she describes as “the Huffington Post of music.” Hey, if HITS can be the Mad magazine of the record business, why not? This is the latest in a regular series of opinion pieces in which Tamara will explore issues affecting the current climate. In other words...blame her, she wrote it.

David Fincher's The Social Network is a genius film, largely due to the acting and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. It’s so good, you don’t notice the music, which is a true sign of a great collaboration between composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and director Fincher. Despite all the hype about the soundtrack, which is, of course, extremely well done, film music is supposed to complement, not distract.

It is near impossible to make a good film about a current topic, but The Social Network tells the universal story of an awkward boy genius who really just wants to win over the girl, and creates a technological revolution as a result.

In a fantastic turn, Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster, and devilish mentor to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg).

My favorite line in the film is when Parker brags about the success of Napster, to which Zuckerberg’s then-business partner Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield) replies dryly that the record labels won the $35 million lawsuit, not Napster.

Parker smiles and says, “Want to buy a Tower Records store?”

This line makes any music executive feel like they’ve been sucker-punched in the gut. The truth hurts.

The record industry won the battle, but Napster won the war. Like Parker points out in the film, since the proverbial illegal file-sharing genie was let out of the bottle, physical record sales have plummeted, all major record store chains have gone bankrupt, and the industry has shrunk from five major label groups to four and most likely to three by the end of next year.

So whatever happened to the planned movie about Napster?

The music industry vs. peer-to-peer file sharing network Napster saga transpired from 1999 to 2001.  I was one of the few music journalists on the front lines. I went to all the court hearings. I saw founder Shawn Fanning go from a regular kid to a stalked, paparazzi target arriving at the courthouse in limos with bodyguards.

I spent hours with Hilary Rosen, who then ran the Recording Industry Association of America, representing the labels who brought on the original lawsuit against Napster. No one knew this, but at the time she was on the receiving end of several death threats for suing Napster.

I had Napster attorney David Boies (who went on to represent Al Gore during the “hanging chad” debacle) on speed dial to discuss the nuance of copyright law.

Basically, that’s what 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 those already in the music industry. And that wouldn't be enough to make a box office hit.

MTV Films did option Fanning’s life story and had filmmaker Alex Winter, who played Bill in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, to write and possibly direct it. There was even talk that Fanning would play himself. It was supposed to be released in the 2003-'04 season, but never saw the light of day.

I guess the other problem was no one really wanted to see a film where Metallica’sLars Ulrich, who was vocal about his band’s suit against Napster, was portrayed as a villain. And who would play him in the film anyway?

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