Earlier this year, while completing work on a song for the movie Mission Impossible: 2, we [members of Metallica]were startled to hear reports that a work-in-progress version was already being played on some U.S. radio stations. We traced the source of this leak to a corporation called Napster.
Additionally, we learned that all of our previously recorded copyrighted songs were, via Napster, available for anyone around the world to download from the Internet in a digital format known as MP3. As you are probably aware, we became the first artists to sue Napster, and have been quite vocal about it as well.
We have many issues with Napster. First and foremost: Napster hijacked our music without asking. They never sought our permission -- our catalogue of music simply became available as free downloads on the Napster system.
I don't have a problem with any artist voluntarily distributing his or her songs through any means the artist elects -- at no cost to the consumer, if that's what the artist wants. But just like a carpenter who crafts a table gets to decide whether to keep it, sell it or give it away, shouldn't we have the same options? My band authored the music which is Napster's lifeblood. We should decide what happens to it, not Napster -- a company with no rights in our recordings, which never invested a penny in Metallica's music or had anything to do with its creation. The choice has been taken away from us.
What about the users of Napster, the music consumers? It's like each of them won one of those contests where you get turned loose in a store for five minutes and get to keep everything you can load into your shopping cart. With Napster, though, there's no time limit and everyone's a winner except the artist. Every song by every artist is available for download at no cost and, of course, with no payment to the artist, the songwriter or the copyright holder.
If you're not fortunate enough to own a computer, there's only one way to assemble a music collection the equivalent of a Napster user's: theft. Walk into a record store, grab what you want and walk out. The difference is that the familiar phrase a computer user hears, "File's done," is replaced by another familiar phrase: "You're under arrest."
Since what I do is make music, let's talk about the recording artist for a moment. When Metallica makes an album, we spend many months and many hundreds of thousands of our own dollars writing and recording. We also contribute our inspiration and perspir-ation. It's what we do for a living. Even though we're passionate about it, it's our job.
We typically employ a record producer, recording engineers, programmers, assistants and, occasionally, other musicians. We rent time for months at recording studios which are owned by small businessmen who have risked their own capital to buy, maintain and constantly upgrade very expensive equipment and facilities. Our record releases are supported by hundreds of record-company employees and provide programming for numerous radio and television stations. Add it all up and you have an industry with many jobs -- a very few glamorous ones like ours -- and a greater number of demanding ones covering all levels of the pay scale for wages which support families and contribute to our economy.
Remember too, that my band is fortunate enough to make a great living from what it does. Most artists are barely earning a decent wage and need every source of revenue available to scrape by. Also keep in mind that the primary source of income for most songwriters is from the sale of records. Every time a Napster enthusiast downloads a song, it takes money from the pockets of all these members of the creative community.
It's clear, then, that if music is free for downloading, the music industry is not viable; all the jobs I just talked about will be lost and the diverse voices of the artists will disappear. The argument I hear a lot, that "music should be free," must then mean musicians should work for free. Nobody else works for free. Why should musicians?
In economic terms, music is referred to as intellectual property, as are films, television programs, books, computer software, video games and the like. As a nation, the United States has excelled in the creation of intellectual property, and collectively, it is this country's most valuable export. The backbone for the success of our intellectual-property business is the protection that Congress has provided with the copyright statutes. No information-based industry can thrive without this protection. Our current political dialogue about trade with China is focused on how we must get that country to respect and enforce copyrights. How can we continue to take that position if we let our own copyright laws wither in the face of technology?
Make no mistake, Metallica is not antitechnology. When we made our first album, the majority of sales were in the vinyl-record format. By the late 1980s, cassette sales accounted for over 50 per cent of the market. Now, the compact disc dominates. If the next format is a form of digital downloading from the Internet with distribution and manufacturing savings passed on to the American consumer, then, of course, we will embrace that format too.
But how can we embrace a new format and sell our music for a fair price when someone, with a few lines of code, and no investment costs, creative input or marketing expenses, simply gives it away? How does this square with the level playing field of the capitalist system? In Napster's brave new world, what free-market economy models support our ability to compete? The touted "new paradigm" that the Internet gurus tell us we Luddites must adopt sounds to me like old-fashioned trafficking in stolen goods.
We have to find a way to welcome the technological advances and cost savings of the Internet while not destroying the artistic diversity and the international success that has made our intellectual-property industries the greatest in the world. Allowing our copyright protections to deteriorate is, in my view, bad policy, both economically and artistically.
"This Web site or any portion of this Web site may not be reproduced, duplicated, copied, sold, resold, or otherwise exploited for any commercial purpose that is not expressly permitted by Napster."
"All Napster Web site design, text, graphics, the selection and arrangement thereof, and all Napster software are Copyright 1999-00 Napster Inc. All rights reserved Napster Inc."
"Napster, the logo and all other trademarks, service marks and trade names of Napster appearing on this Web site are owned by Napster. Napster's trademarks, logos, service marks, and trade names may not be used in connection with any product or service that is not Napster's."
Napster itself wants -- and surely deserves -- copyright and trademark protection. Metallica and other creators of music and intellectual property want, deserve and have a right to that same protection.
In closing, I'd like to [quote]the last paragraph of a New York Times column by Edward Rothstein: "Information doesn't want to be free; only the transmission of information wants to be free. Information, like culture, is the result of labour and devotion, investment and risk; it has a value. And nothing will lead to a more deafening cultural silence than ignoring that value and celebrating . . . [companies like]Napster running amok." This article is excerpted from Ulrich's testimony to a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the Napster issue. Arts Argument is a weekly forum on cultural issues. Readers are encouraged to respond to published pieces and to submit their own essays, by mail, E-mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org) or fax (416-585-5699).