What happened when Metallica went to war with Napster

Lars Ulrich
(Image credit: YouTube)

On April 13, 2000, Metallica would file one of the most infamous lawsuits in the history of music, in a move that'd mark a new era in music listening habits. Taking on P2P filesharing service Napster for what drummer Lars Ulrich claimed was copyright infringement, following the widespread sharing of a demo version of the band's 2000 track I Disappear on Napster's platform, Metallica threw themselves in the firing line of fans and peers who accused them of being greedy capitalist monsters out to upend the future of music.

The reality wasn't as black and white as that. Napster may have ultimately bitten the dust after filing for bankruptcy following the fallout from Metallica's lawsuit, but other streaming platforms quickly arose in its place. In 2022, streaming serves as the biggest avenue through which artists are heard - often to their detriment, with many high-profile streaming services being accused of massively underpaying the musicians through which their platforms thrive. In many ways, Lars was right - it's a model that just doesn't serve artists fairly on a financial level.

That doesn't mean he or Metallica necessarily went about everything the right way at the time, of course. For a start, delivering a list of 300,000 user names to Napster and asking them to terminate each account was a swing and a miss in public relations terms.

And then there was that MTV video. Aired during the 2000 VMAs, it took the form of a fake commercial, starring VMAs host Marlon Wayans as an eager young Metallica fan happily guzzling up their music through Napster.

Cue Lars Ulrich's arrival for a brief lesson in economic 'fairness', during which he proceeds to claim that if Wayans can 'share' Metallica's music, Lars should be able to 'share' (AKA steal) whatever he likes - from Wayans' Pepsi to his computer to his girlfriend. 

"I'm starting to like this whole sharing thing," beams the drummer as he slaps Napster stickers on everything he can find, before calling in some heavies to remove all of Wayans' worldly possessions. "Napster: sharing's only fun when it's not your stuff," looms a voiceover at the end. Yeah, it's about as funny as it sounds, and over two decades on, it hasn't aged well.

Watch the bizarre moment in MTV VMAs history below.

To be fair, Napster did get to take a shot of their own - co-founder Shawn Fanning turned up to the very same awards show to introduce Britney Spears while wearing a Metallica shirt. When complimented on it, he remarked: "a friend shared it with me!" Ah, classic early-00s banter right there!

Nowadays, Metallica are rightly regarded as one of metal's nicest bands, having formed one of the strongest and most wholesome bonds with their fans of any major rock band in the world. While the Napster debacle is often still raised in certain, angry corners of the internet, it certainly seems that, for the most part, Metallica have long put the issue firmly behind them. Much like this batshit crazy video, thankfully. 

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.