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ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: I actually just finished doing a
videotaped deposition for eight hours about putting
Napster on download.com and CNET, and writing tutorials on
how to use it.
So this is all very fresh in my mind.
And in fact, the legal battles are still going.
ALEX WINTER: Very much so, yeah.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: So I thought you did a great job
with the film.
It's a massively important topic.
The internet only happened once.
Peer to peer only showed up for the first time once.
And they're both here with us forever.
What do you see as the relevance of the Napster story
to today's technology?
ALEX WINTER: Well, I think a lot--
and I think it's a funny thing, because in some ways
it's late for a Napster story.
In a lot of ways, it's too early for a Napster story.
And I feel more on the latter than I do on the former.
The heart of what Fanning innovated and disrupted in
terms of his vision was about looking at the internet as a
place where everybody could be communally connected, and that
there would be a democratic flow of information and
content and all connected by people all over the world, and
sort of like the idea of something that Google has
dealt with subsequently of cataloging and indexing
I mean, the stuff that he was interested in mostly was
firstly, the social community aspect, and then the notion of
being able to find things that were not
freely and easily available.
So I think that strikes at the heart.
That's what I found interesting about Fanning when
I first met him over 10 years ago.
That's what I found interesting about
Napster when I used it.
And certainly, those, I think, are the more prevalent issues
that are facing us today in every corner of the tech
sector, whether it's Google, YouTube, the issues around
that, some of the battles that are being
fought there with Viacom--
who paid for this movie, by the way--
and other people, all the way to Arab Spring, and Bradley
Manning, and the NSA Snowden scandal, and issues about
transparency, freedom of information, internet rights.
These are things when Napster erupted in '99 and I got onto
it, I'd gotten online in the late '80s, and it was so
obviously a seismic shift, and such a big rock in the water.
It was clear in '99 that the world was
never going to go back.
So we're still, as you said, dead in the middle, if not
actually in the infancy of the battles for the future that
are happening right now.
There's absolutely zero resolution in sight, as far as
I can tell.
So that's why I think it's relevant.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Yeah.
My favorite saying that I've coined about this, thank you
very much, was that the internet is a perfect tool for
freedom or control.
And it seems like Napster was on the freedom side of the
equation for sure, and it just seemed incompatible with the
control part that now seems to be happening
sometimes on the internet.
ALEX WINTER: Yeah.
And I think that something that's really often overlooked
and I get this a lot, because I've been talking about this
movie a lot since we made it and went on the road with it--
the very first question I always get in Q and As--
I wouldn't get it at Google, but when I'm not dealing with
technology people is oh, where can we download
this movie for free?
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: That's my last question.
ALEX WINTER: Yeah.
And it always makes me laugh.
But it's sad, because my answer is very mundane in that
Napster was never a piracy service, and it wasn't created
as a philosophical piracy service.
So your question is interesting, because to me,
Napster sums up the duality of the internet in one company.
Because they were not Pirate Bay.
These were guys with an ethos--
and there's things about Pirate Bay that I love, so
it's not a pro or con thing.
But these were not anarchists who were specifically out to
create a decentralized system that would be unstoppable.
Quite the opposite.
They intentionally created a centralized system, knowing
that in doing so, they had to have some affiliations with
They were not going to survive as a company--
and they wanted to survive, they wanted to make money,
they wanted to be a business--
if they couldn't do deals with the labels and the various
interests whose content they were moving around.
So here was a company that was both at once about freedom of
the internet, and also required a
certain amount of control.
And I think that because of that need, especially at that
era of the internet, there was no way that they would ever
have survived, because they were trying to bridge-- the
people that survived were people like,
say goodbye to control.
We're all about freedom, and you can basically kiss our
backsides, because we don't really want to do
business with you.
And hopefully, we'll dismantle you.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Right.
So in your mind, after speaking to everybody,
interviewing everybody that you interviewed in the film,
which is a huge breadth of people, was it ever your
impression that the so-called legal Napster that was a
subscription service-- did that ever
really stand a chance?
Did anybody think that?
ALEX WINTER: I know a lot of people very much did think
that it would stand a chance, because there were some very
powerful businesspeople who were working tirelessly to
make a subscription service.
Did Fanning and Parker and Ali Aydar and the core Napster
I mean, it's questionable.
I don't want to make people angry in retrospect by saying
what I think about that.
But I think it's questionable.
I think that they realized by the time they got around--
because you have to remember that once you're injuncted,
you can't innovate.
You can't do any R and D. You can't do any work on the
product at all.
So they were baked in lucite at a certain point by the
Once that happened, a lot of them just felt like the game
was up no matter what they did.
And it went on like that for years.
I remember when I first met Fanning as Napster was
crumbling, and I said to him, what to you was the highest
high you had on this whole process?
When was the greatest moment?
He said, everything was great until I hit send and
uploaded the app.
He goes, everything up until then was awesome.
He says from the moment he uploaded it, within a very
short period of time, he realized
that they were screwed.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Right.
And it is a shame that there still isn't really a great way
to access all that stuff.
I mean, the way that I used to use Napster--
I would pretty much just search for Mogwai that I was
really into, and then if anybody had them, I would know
that anything else they had, I would be
probably into that too.
Nobody who just is only into Metallica is going to have a
And so it's like, that was my litmus test.
And then it's like, oh, here's a live Mogwai show, and here's
some band that's not even on a label that sounds like that.
Might have been an Explosions In The Sky song in your movie.
So it seems like there still isn't anything like that.
And what was it, 60 million users
Napster had at some point?
So Spotify right now, which is the biggest on demand
subscription service, has not even half that
worldwide in 2013.
I think SoundCloud has more users than that, but nobody
makes any money from that.
So do you think that there's a chance?
Can copyright ever possibly be reformed to the point where
there can be an all you can eat Napstery service that has
all the grey area files?
ALEX WINTER: You know, I don't think we have a choice.
I think that the sad truth of it is, a lot of people wish
that a lot of things would go away.
I think that there are people that wish that people would
stop legislating against innovation on the one side.
I think on the other side, there are certain sectors of
the industry that just wish the internet would go away
I think the reality of it is that we have no choice but to
Now, frankly, in my opinion, copyright desperately needs to
be reformed anyway.
It's Byzantine, and it's built around pre-existing systems
that aren't even relevant anymore and haven't been for a
very long time, for the most part.
So I think that we currently live in a world where neither
the consumer or the artist is being well served.
So I think copyright law
desperately needs to be reformed.
And I think that frankly, YouTube is the only example I
can think of an online service where you have an opportunity
to find content that isn't freely available.
That's the closest thing, in a way, to what Napster had in
that it's a searchable database.
But the difference being, obviously, that-- and this is
all going to change and evolve--
is that it doesn't yet have the curation component that
Napster had in '98, '99, where it was very easy, like you
just said about Mogwai, to drill down and find the stuff
you were looking for that led you to more stuff that you
were looking for.
It was kind of a fractal-like experience.
I remember for me, because I'm a jazz fan, I was immediately
after rare and unreleased jazz bootlegs.
That was my Napster thing.
And I was able to drill down and drill down and drill down
and just find unbelievable stuff very, very, very quickly
That does not exist right now in any service.
But it's coming, and copyright notwithstanding, it's coming.
So we have to reform the laws to catch up to the technology.
I mean, as Ron Conway says in the movie, you can't stop the
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: It's true.
I mean, I view file sharing as kind of a pressure valve on
the legal services.
Like, if they don't get it right, everybody's going to go
back to Napster.
And of course, there's BitTorrent sitting there.
And some of these are still around.
But to me, it seems like really, it's kind of worked as
a pressure valve.
I mean, would there be a Spotify had there
never been a Napster?
Let's maybe talk about this a little bit.
So in your film, there's this idea that--
I forget who said it, but there's Napster led to
Friendster, Friendster begat MySpace, MySpace begat
Facebook and Google+ and everything else.
So do you buy that?
Do you think Napster is like the granddaddy all of these
ALEX WINTER: Well, I'm just a guy who made a movie.
In my opinion, absolutely, because that's what I
experienced with my relationship to technology.
That was how it worked for me.
I can tell you that everybody that I know in the tech sector
feels that way.
Everybody I've met super high up the food chain in that
world all credit Fanning with--
I mean, there are sort of grumbly, mumbly people as
competitive as everybody can be who are just like,
obviously, this would have happened at some point.
It was coming.
But I think what you can't take away from those guys was
their ability to scale that service, which had not been
Their ability to get it to 60 million users.
Their ability to move content around that quickly in the age
of dialup was radically innovative.
And also, the sheer disruptive nature of what Fanning and
Parker put out there.
And you can argue--
I went to great pains to not get bogged down in the ethics
discussions in the movie.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Yeah, how do you respond to that?
ALEX WINTER: Because I feel very, very strongly that the
world that we live in, especially with the way the
media works and the news media works in this day and age,
things get very quickly mythologized.
And I think that once they do, you lose specificity
And to me, the Napster debate always being focused around
this notion of piracy versus artists rights or the
industry's rights was so specious and inaccurate, and
caused, I think, an extra 10 years of not understanding
what was really going on.
The fact that we're still in court arguing over various
clauses of the DMCA in 2013 just says to me that nobody,
for the most part, has any idea what the hell is actually
going on, how to solve it.
And I think it's irresponsible to just keep creating this
very buzzworthy debate about kids in baseball caps who want
to steal *** and the man who's trying to
hold onto the product.
I just think it's irrelevant.
And I think that the reality of the world we're in is that
the technology has happened.
A lot of really innovative people are driving it forward.
A lot of people are trying to stop it.
And the fact is, as you just said, it's going to evolve
with or without this legislation.
So the best thing we can possibly do is stop bickering
about the ethics and go, guess what, guys.
We live in this world now.
Let's start working out ways of serving the consumer, the
artist, various people, and getting the laws adjusted that
we need to get adjusted rather than criminalizing people and
pointing fingers at who may or may not be right or wrong for
wanting to download something, either for free or for less
money than somebody wants it to be spent on.
I just think it's irrelevant.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: So what do you think about artists--
I mean, there a few that--
I guess Thom Yorke is the most notable one--
who are opting out of the quote unquote "legal services"
that have descended from Napster.
I mean, Spotify uses peer to peer technology.
Shawn Parker's involved.
It's free if you want it to be in the US.
And what's your take on artists that are just saying,
no, we don't want that either.
ALEX WINTER: I think, in a way, all of it's good.
Like, I have my own opinions about Thom Yorke's response to
Spotify, that a lot of people like Bob Lefsetz have
responded to very articulately in that you can take it off
Spotify, yet it's still on YouTube.
So it doesn't make a lot of sense from a technological
I think that the argument that artists need to be fairly
compensated is valuable.
I think it was valuable with the record industry before the
technologies, and I think it's valuable in this new landscape
we live in.
I think people fighting for artists--
I'm an artist.
People fighting for the rights of artists are good people.
So I think that, again, I'm really against creating black
and white out of gray.
So I think we live in a world of gray.
I think that people are going, OK, so you're innovating over
Well, that's cool, but we don't like X, Y, and Z. So
Spotify can respond and maybe fix some aspect of X, Y, and
So I think the democratization of these evolutionary
technologies to the degree that they can be democratic is
a good thing.
It's better than shutting people up.
I don't always agree with them, but I'm happy for
someone to heckle someone is trying to build something.
You might make them build a better mouse trap.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Well, that's a very mature way of
I think back then, everyone--
ALEX WINTER: Yeah, I'm old.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: I guess we all are, a little bit more
than back then, because it really was a
black and white thing.
It was like, for us or against us, and very ideological.
And I think it is helpful that a lot of people
have gotten past that.
And I got a press release the other day about I guess you
can now back up your phone using peer to peer technology
to your own computer.
Like, your own peer, and somehow bounce it around in
secure packets or something.
And anyway, it seems like now it's coming out that there are
many, many legitimate uses for this technology as I recounted
at length during my recent videotaped deposition.
So, shifting gears a bit, first, let me go here.
We had a 16-year-old intern where I work, and he's coming
from a very different place.
He's what they call in your film a
digital native, I guess.
And he said that when he's assigned work in school, to
read something, that literally nobody actually
reads the book anymore.
I mean, even with Shakespeare or something, it's like, it
wasn't even Cliff Notes.
It's Spark Notes or something is what they're all using now.
And his question to me was like, what are
you going to do?
How are you going to write long form stuff to people like
me who are never going to read it?
And I was like, hmm, yikes.
Do you see the documentary or the video form as the new long
form journalism, or is this how more complicated
information is going to be relayed?
ALEX WINTER: I don't.
I honestly don't.
I really, really don't.
And I've got three kids, and my three year old will sit in
front of a magazine and try to move the screen
like it's an iPad.
So I get that the world is changing.
But I've been saying this for years within
my own content unions.
I'm in four different unions, and there's a sky is falling
mentality that I just think is so completely erroneous.
And I think that, yeah, change hurts some people.
Innovation causes disruptions, which causes certain aspects
of our lives to change.
But if there's one thing we've learned in the last 150 years
of massive, accelerated change is there's room for many
different types of people, and many different platforms.
And the radio is going to kill the newspaper, and the movie
was going to kill the radio, and TV was going to kill the
movie industry, and Betamax was going to kill the movies,
and downloading music was going to
kill the music industry.
And it's all nonsense.
And it just keeps getting proven over and over and over
again to be nonsense.
But it's like one more person talking about why
write novels anymore?
It's like, go on the subway.
People are reading novels.
My kid, who's 14, 15, is a voracious novel reader.
He reads novels faster than I do.
He reads all of them.
You know what I mean?
So I don't think it's going away.
I think that the world's filled with people.
There's lots of people in this world, and there are many
different types of people in the world.
And they like consuming their stuff in different ways.
And you've this one kid who's like, maybe he's got ADD.
I don't know.
But he doesn't want to read anything that's long.
I don't either, and I'm an old guy, you know what I mean?
So I may be more like him by nature, and the technologies
are serving me in many ways that I like, because I do like
doing a lot of different things at
once, as opposed to--
But I think it's a temperament issue, and I just think the
world we live in now offers you that many more outlets for
consuming whatever culture you want however you want.
I think that the fact that print media is beginning to
respond to these changes as well as they have, when
everyone thought they'd be the first place to go under--
Why the hell would you ever read a newspaper again?
Well, people are reading them in various forms.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Well, there you go with that nuanced
viewpoint again, where it's not one or the other.
And I actually think as a writer, text
does have its place.
I think it's actually, in terms of the information per
minute, it doesn't do badly against other.
I mean, it depends what you're trying to present.
About the documentary process.
So, I mean, I think we can both agree that it's
important, whether or not it's going to replace other long
form information relay techniques.
So I'm sure there are people watching this that have had an
idea to do a documentary about a phenomenon that's important
the way that Napster is, was.
How does one go about doing this?
You've got so many people on camera that were just involved
with this from the start.
How do you do this?
What do you do?
I'm sure it's really easy, right?
ALEX WINTER: Well, like I said, I started working on
this project in '02.
I wrote it as a narrative for a major studio in '03 and '04.
It went into turnaround, which means it was just sitting in
development, and I walked away.
I came back to it in '09, and I decided to make it a doc,
because I felt like there were so many prevalent issues in
Napster's story that would be better served having the
original people talk about it than me putting words in their
mouth as a narrative.
The fact is that documentaries are in a golden age.
I think that because-- and this is going to sound very
buzzwordy, but they are like a multi-platform media.
For instance, with Downloaded, our distribution rollout is
theatrical, nine different types of digital, streaming,
free streaming, ad aggregated streaming, downloadable,
whatever, on all these portals.
They're a good, present day piece of content.
They are hard to get made, because
they're hard to monetize.
I mean, documentaries are tough to monetize, so you have
to really find people who just want to tell the story and get
the story out there.
But they exist, and there are more of them now than there
ever have been.
I mean, for all the kvetching people do in my industry about
how much worse things are now, there's way more opportunity
now than there ever was in terms of the amount of buyers
and the amount of content distribution networks.
I mean, there's more popping up every day via the net, via
conventional TV, or whatever.
So I think if you have an interesting enough idea and
you're willing to stick with it, I think you have a good
chance of getting something made.
The other beauty about a doc is you can just make it.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: True.
ALEX WINTER: I mean, you could just make it and then
distribute it yourself, or build into the structure of it
later with the financing.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: That's an interesting way to do it.
Sort of cart before the wagon, but who cares?
ALEX WINTER: In this day and age, I mean, that's it.
There's no cart or wagon anymore.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Right.
I meant horse cart, but yeah, I take your point.
So I had an interesting day around this whole time that
the film is about.
So I was sitting there at CNET, and there were a bunch
of people from News.com.
John Borland, who had a story in here, and a
bunch of other reporters.
And we had Hilary Rosen in the room, from the RIAA, right, I
think, during the end of her tenure.
And we grilled her for, I don't know, an hour or two
hours, 20 reporters, all recording things in her face.
And she was very nice about it.
I was surprised that she didn't actually breathe fire
after everything I'd heard about her.
So we all peppered her with questions forever.
And then at the end of it, she goes, now I have one question
for all of you.
What would you do if you were me?
And we were like, oh, gosh.
So she's got the labels going after her on one side, and
then she's got the entire internet mocking her on the
And I think in your film, she comes
off as kind of agreeable.
But what would you have done?
Say that you're Hilary Rosen around this time.
What do you do?
ALEX WINTER: Well, if I'm Hilary Rosen, and I'm working
for a trade organization that represents an industry that's
in a battle, and I'm being paid handsomely by that trade
organization, I fight for my trade organization or I leave.
And I don't mean to be glib.
I think the facts speak for themselves.
She left eventually.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: She did, and she left, notably, before
they started suing actual fans.
ALEX WINTER: I think she left specifically before they
started suing individual fans.
And I think they're all in a very tough position.
I think the labels are in a tough position.
I think that the RIAA is still in a tough position.
The one thing I'm not--
I'm certainly gray, but I'm not cavalier.
There's two things that happen in any kind of revolution like
this, whether it's cultural or political.
It's sexier to side with the new guys.
You know what I mean?
And you feel like the winner if you side with the new guys.
So I think psychologically, I always try to tug against that
inclination within myself to just go, yeah, this is cool
and it's new, so I'm just going to side with this.
I think that there are things that have to get worked out,
and I think that it is incumbent upon the new leaders
in the space--
which is predominantly Google, to be completely honest, at
this point in time--
to really very carefully navigate this terrain.
I don't think it's easy for them.
I don't think it's easy for the pre-existing businesses.
I don't think it's easy for the artist.
To some degree, I don't think it's easier for the consumer,
because they're going, Jesus, am I a criminal if I do this?
Am I actually breaking the law?
But I want to do it, and everyone's telling me to do
it, and it's definitely more convenient and a better system
than this creaky old one they're trying to bend me to
go back into.
I would say that we're all Hilary Rosen.
I think everybody's facing these very tough choices right
now every day.
I think that what's really interesting--
not to try to elevate the Napster story beyond where I
think it deserves to go, but I think there's
a correlative between--
I mean, look at what's going on with the Syria decision.
You now have the democratization of information
to do to a degree that you've never had it before.
So you've got the government saying, oh, no, no.
We've got to do.
And everyone's behind us.
And everyone's going, well, no we're not.
Now, in the past, you wouldn't hear everybody
saying no or not.
There would no way to hear that voice other than at the
Now we know that there are tens of millions of people out
there via social media saying, well, actually, no, we don't
really want to bomb Syria.
Now Obama's Hilary Rosen.
Everybody's now stuck in this position of
just going, oh, crap.
How do we deal with the fact that on the one hand, we need
to have control, and on the other hand, there's this all
of this freedom of information?
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Right.
So it seems like--
this was going to be one of my questions.
Do you view peer to peer technology
as inherently political?
It sounds like yes.
ALEX WINTER: I think everything is inherently
political, because look how quickly the peer to peer issue
I mean, I saw it coming in '99.
and Fanning said it himself the day I met him.
He said that Napster has nothing to do with music, and
I got that completely when I got on Napster.
It was like, it could've been anything.
The idea to move music around in a way was a delivery system
for Shawn, because he knew that that was
like the pied piper.
That would get the kiddies to come to the party.
The party is what mattered.
The party was the end game, not the lure.
So of course it was going to get political, and it got
political very, very quickly.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Indeed.
So I was one of these people who was a big believer in
SNOCAP, and followed it all the way to its end.
I forget who acquired it, and it kind of fizzled out.
But this idea of a universal database that has audio
fingerprints of music, and people can go claim that, and
then other people know who owns it.
Or if nobody is claiming something--
I talked to a guy from the IFPI who said he was working
on something like that-- like universal identifiers for
songs so that people know what it is and what the rules are
associated with it.
And then he emailed me again, and he was like, I'm getting
fired, and I can't talk to you anymore.
ALEX WINTER: Yeah.
The NSA showed up at his house and dragged him away.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Possibly.
But I don't know.
Do you have any hope of something like this?
I guess content Id on YouTube is kind of like that, where it
just knows this song, the money goes to that guy.
This song, nobody wants.
ALEX WINTER: Yeah.
I think that what's interesting--
I remember I was hanging around with Fanning a lot when
he was working on SNOCAP.
That was predominantly when I was writing the movie the
So I was in the trenches on that, and
watched what he was--
And it was amazing, both the courage that he had.
And then he had Hilary Rosen on his board.
It was really an amazing turnabout from what he had
dealt with before in that he had a lot of support from
within the industry.
People that had villainized him were aware that he was
actually trying to help solve the problem.
But it was just brutal to watch, because it was just way
too much too soon to try to do that.
And I think it's still too much.
I think one of two things is going to happen.
I think actually both things are going to happen.
I think that companies like Google or YouTube within
Google are going to make-- and already are making, I'm sure,
behind closed doors-- are going to just make humongous
strides in this area, because they already have their arms,
like you were saying about Napster-- they already have
their arms around the community, which is the lion's
share of the battle is just getting your arms around the
community and going, OK.
We're all here in this one space.
Well, we're all in YouTube.
I mean, that's a fact.
I mean, there's no comparison between their metrics and the
next metrics down from YouTube.
It drops by like a billion or something ridiculous.
So all our arms around that.
So they've got a really good shot at driving a lot of
reform, because the numbers are there.
But I think we also can't rule out the disruptive innovator
who comes just clean out of left field, like you're the
person you're talking about, who just comes up with a
better mouse trap.
And that's what's exciting to me about the landscape that we
live in where you have that capability, where someone
could just come out a left field with a better mousetrap.
And that would be great, too.
And in this day and age, it would probably be acquired and
it would then be folded into the pre-existing system, and
the world would be happily ever after.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Right.
I should mention that we have microphones, if anybody else
has a question for Alex.
So here's one.
So Google Play All Access is not the only service that does
this, but it's one of them, where you can take MP3s you
may or may not have gotten from Napster over a decade
ago, or from anywhere else, for that matter, and upload
them into a service that pays copyright
holders when you stream.
It's a legitimate service, and I think iTunes
match works that way.
Sort of amnesty.
Welcome back to paying for music.
And you can still bring all that other stuff that you
have, and you're forgiven, to quote the band in the movie.
Do you think that the kids--
I mean, if you've grown up with free music at this point
in various forms, do you think that as kids grow up, they
will start to pay $10 a month for something that just gives
them access to everything, including the stuff that they
ALEX WINTER: You know, I get asked this all the time.
And I'm beginning to think that I must either be totally
naive, or I don't know what.
But I would understand that question in 2002.
But in 2003, Steve Jobs proved the answer to that question,
which I knew in '99, and the Napster guys knew in '99.
And the guys that created the iTunes store
all came from Napster.
I mean, Jobs literally hired--
I won't name names, because it always gets me in trouble,
but, I mean, you could Google it.
He hired this guy, this guy, this guy, and this guy from
Napster, who had built the artist development, the iTunes
store, the head executives over at what became the iTunes
store at Apple.
So people will pay for convenience.
Of course they well.
We learned that in 2003.
They paid through the nose for convenience, and they continue
to do that.
So again, in my experience, we don't live in
free culture anymore.
The free culture window was really, really short, and it
was through necessity.
We had a free culture window because when these
technologies erupted, they erupted outside of the purview
of the industry.
So there was no way to buy this stuff.
You could only download it for free.
There was no way to use Napster and pay for it.
They were desperately trying to play catch up and make it a
pay service, because they weren't going to make any
money if they didn't.
They were using the model of like, here,
take all this stuff.
It was like a beta model.
Take this stuff for free, and if you dig it, then we'll
start charging for it.
Well, they never got there.
So iTunes did that.
They made a fortune, and they built the empire that is the
new Apple-- sort of Apple II--
off the back of the fact that the public will
pay for this stuff.
So my son, for instance--
my older son--
he never grew up with free culture.
He's always paid for content online.
He didn't grow up during the downloading era.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Yeah.
I think people view it as a waste of disk space now.
Why would I clog up my whole hard drive?
ALEX WINTER: Yeah, but even if you're working off the cloud,
he'll pay for Pandora, or he'll pay for--
and actually, a lot of people like having stuff.
Like, my son specifically will be like, I don't want my stuff
on the cloud, because it gets lost.
Or if my internet goes down, I can't listen to my music.
So he likes having stuff.
Drive space being what it is-- and that's about to
revolutionize anyway-- that won't be as big of an issue.
But still, you can keep an enormous amount of music on a
thumb drive, and kids love doing that.
I mean, he's got it on his phone, on his laptop.
But he'll pay.
I mean, he does everything on YouTube.
and they're doing this with advertising, obviously-- but
if they literally turned around and started charging
him a subscription fee for YouTub,e he would pay it.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: You guys hear that?
ALEX WINTER: Like that.
I mean, honestly, he doesn't want to hear the ads on
Pandora, so he pays.
I just don't believe we live in that culture anymore.
I never really viewed the public as thieves.
They wanted to convenience.
They didn't want to steal.
As soon as people started offering them services that
were as convenient as the free services, they paid for them.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Right.
So Lars Ulrich features prominently in your film for
obvious reasons, and I got to interview him I don't know if
it was two or three years ago at South by Southwest.
Under heavy security, by the way.
I don't know if you dealt with that.
Like, there's the Metallica police or something.
ALEX WINTER: It's like Disneyland.
They have their own police force.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Yeah.
It is really like Dethklok.
So I just wondered, so, during that interview, he admitted to
BitTorrenting his own most recent album at the time.
ALEX WINTER: Oh, I saw that interview.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: So from the artists that you talked to,
did any of them sort of off camera tell you different
things about Napster?
ALEX WINTER: You know, that happened all throughout
There was always a duplicity between what was being said on
camera and what was being said off camera.
I mean, I did so much research when I first wrote the script,
and almost all the artists that I talked to in those days
used Napster and dug it, but were really scared of their
labels getting mad at them if they said anything pro.
And I think you would still find that 10 years later, that
a lot of artists wouldn't go on record for fear of reprisal
from their record labels.
I think that in Metallica's case, you were dealing with--
I would say to be fair to them, they were the front end
of the very beginning of people going, holy
crap, what is this?
Like, there's this tsunami.
What is it?
Can we just stop and figure out what it is?
Which I think is actually--
like, to be fair to Lars, is a justifiable and understandable
I think what happened to Lars is that a lot of artists that
may have been pro or con Napster, whatever, once they
knew what it was, were like, oh my God, what is this thing?
And Lars went running out onto the battlefield thinking he
had a whole army behind him, and then turned around and
everyone else was like, no, I'm not
getting involved in this.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Yeah.
They probably saw those cartoons--
ALEX WINTER: Yeah, exactly.
And there he was, and he stuck his neck out, and nobody came
to his aid.
But I think the reality of it is that if you look at Dre, or
you look at Lars specifically, Dre was certainly very vocal
against Napster, but it's not like he was a Luddite.
I mean, look at how he's primarily made his living for
the last 10 years is primarily through digitally oriented
headphone equipment, and is now sort of driving forward
beyond that into actual music based subscription service
technological hoo ha that he's doing, much off
the model of Napster.
So I don't think that these people were just like, no,
we're never ever ever going to evolve with these
I think that they were just completely blindsided by them
and wanted to sort of stop and address these issues.
But the reality of it is you can't stop these technologies.
You can't stop evolutionary technology.
So you have to run with the train and make the reforms
that you need to make, and I think people are
still adverse to that.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Right.
Well, unless anybody else has questions, I'm now going to
ask the inevitable one.
ALEX WINTER: The one I probably can't answer.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: No, no, you can.
Have people have been file sharing your film, and have
you seen that happen?
And how do you feel about it?
ALEX WINTER: Oh, yeah, of course they have.
As soon as we were available digitally,
within however long--
two hours after that--
we were DRM stripped and on Pirate Bay.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: At which point you completely reversed
your philosophy and started suing everybody, right?
ALEX WINTER: Yeah, yeah.
I think stealing content is fine, unless it's mine is
actually the conclusion I've come to.
I mean, look.
Again, there is a lot a debate about this, and there's a lot
of emotionality around it.
A lot of ignorance, I would say, and a lot of really just
hurt feelings, too.
I have a lot of friends who are musicians who are just
bummed that the industry is not the same anymore.
And I get it.
The industry isn't, and it never will be.
We're never going to reset the clock and go back to the Tower
It's never ever, ever, ever going to happen.
So I'm not callous about that.
I think there are things that we've lost that are a bummer,
just like change.
The horse and buggy-- we didn't have as much pollution.
Maybe more methane.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Methane, I was going to say.
ALEX WINTER: But there are always
sacrifices when change occurs.
But I don't think that there's anybody sensible in positions
of power anymore who doesn't realize the promotional value
I think I read an article yesterday where the guys at
HBO are getting more vocal about--
even like the "Game of Thrones" thing.
Like, they'd rather people didn't take it, but I think
that those people are becoming aware of what the reality is,
which is as soon as we're able to match the convenience of
these free services, people will pay for them.
And I think that's just been shown over and
over and over again.
And you will always have some degree of pirates within that
pie graph that's a very small percentage.
The bulk of the people when you're dealing with massive
torrenting, honestly, are not getting it as conveniently, as
quickly, and in a more legitimate service.
So yeah, people are downloading it.
I think honestly, for us, on our
level, it's just promotion.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Yeah.
I mean, I think you're onto something there.
It's the motivation for the industry to evolve in a way
that makes more sense for the fan or the consumer.
ALEX WINTER: Yeah, absolutely.
And what just got leaked today or yesterday, I was
reading about it?
Some new show or whatever got leaked, and the response even
with that was like--
I think it was the premiere of "Homeland"?
Something like that.
It was like, it's really actually
going to drive promotion.
They were just at that point.
And if you watch this, historically, it's sort of
like the witch trials.
It used to be heretical to say this.
If you said this in public, you were blacklisted.
How dare you say piracy is good?
And when that kid got thrown in jail for a year for
uploading the Wolverine movie.
And then subsequently, if you actually dig into it, you
realize that it did incredibly well for the movie
And I think some poor sucker's doing time.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: It's like, this movie's so good that this
guy went to jail for a year?
ALEX WINTER: Exactly.
So I think that people are beginning
to realize two things.
One is that a lot of that stuff just drives promotion.
And the other is that the public is not inherently free
I think the idea of free culture is total mythology.
I don't think we live in that world at all, and I think it
just keeps getting proven over and over and over again that
people will pay.
ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: Nicely done.
Well, thank you very much.
ALEX WINTER: No, thank you.