Quantcast
"I’m often stunned at the gulf, in terms of vocabulary, customs and practices [between the tech and music communities]. People tend, often unwittingly, to talk past each other. These are different tribes.”
—Hank Barry

15 YEARS AFTER METALLICA VS. NAPSTER: A TRIBAL TALE

We Review the Past and Assess the Future With Former Napster Chief Hank Barry

Napster was a missed opportunity,” says Hank Barry (pictured at right) 15 years to the week after Metallica filed its copyright infringement suit against the company he was running. “Mistakes were made on both sides; we did what we could to bridge the gap.” 

I was covering the story for what was then known as HITS’ “Net News” column, and interviewed Barry, among other players, about the struggle between copyright and copy ubiquity.

And since we’re in the midst of a new set of struggles over the dissemination of music online, it seemed apt to review some of this stuff with Barry, an attorney who’s still working in the tech field in Silicon Valley.

He admits that he didn’t focus too much on the Metallica suit at the time—“it was one among 35 or so lawsuits,” he says—but remembers thinking that drummer/spokesman Lars Ulrich’s Senate testimony was impressive.

Still, Barry observes, in the intervening years there’s been surprisingly little change in the cultural gap between entertainment and tech. “I work in both communities,” he says, “and I’m often stunned at the gulf, in terms of vocabulary, customs and practices. People tend, often unwittingly, to talk past each other. These are different tribes.”

It boils down to a clash between a culture dedicated to “finding technical solutions no matter what” and one devoted to “exclusive rights,” Barry adds. “The tension between enforcing exclusive rights and getting the many benefits of the internet—that basic challenge is still with us.”

Now, with streaming, the biz once again finds itself trying to navigate a popular digital distribution platform—a non-music business built on music. And while a lot of those cultural differences remain, it seems the biz has learned a thing or two about embracing new technology rather than fighting it.

“These are very smart people,” Barry notes of the top label and publishing execs—several of whom he tussled with back in the day. “They’ll continue to figure it out.”

 

NEAR TRUTHS: OFF AND RUNNING
The lay of the land at the top of the year (1/24a)
O-ROD MANAGEMENT
IN PLAY?
America's most wanted (1/20a)
HITS LIST GETS ANIMATED
Lin-Manuel and Ken sing in harmony, inspiring industry applause. (1/25a)
MEAT LOAF,
1947-2022
The dashboard light has dimmed. (1/21a)
SONG REVENUE: SOME ENCHANTED DAWN
Winning hands in the early action (1/20a)
OOH, LAS VEGAS
You're gonna make a poor boy outta me.
HOW I WISH THAT THERE WERE MORE
...than 24 hours in a day.
PALMS SWEAT, BLACKJACK
on a Saturday night
SIN CITY
Lamborginis and caviar Dry martinis, Shangri-La
Advertisement
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)