The new documentary "Downloaded" chronicles the rise and fall of Napster, the file-sharing app that flipped the music world upside-down. In one scene, premiered below, musicians such as Metallica's Lars Ulrich and the Byrds' Roger McGuinn show just how deeply digital music had divided the industry with testimony on the Senate floor.
"I think that what we've witnessed was an internal conflict, not just one guy on one side," "Downloaded" director Alex Winter told Billboard.com, citing artists' twin needs of wanting their work heard and needing to make a living -- a situation that continues to evolve. "Metallica put their entire catalog on Spotify."
The film addresses Napster from multiple angles -- from its legal and ethical components, including artist and RIAA criticism and its numerous legal battles, and from the personal side, the communities the site built and the friendship of collaborators Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. The project began life in 2002 as a narrative film that Winter says wound up in turnaround at a major studio. Eventually, he decided a documentary would be a better fit to explore wounds that, over a decade later, are still fresh for many.
"One thing I did not count on was the level of rage that still exists," he said. "It's kind of shocking to me how many people are just as angry in 2013 as they were in 2001… Clearly, the artist is not getting compensated well enough yet. There's just so much need for better architecture."
Yet as the film shows, Napster had its supporters -- millions of them, from college students sharing songs to Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst. The P2P connections went beyond just files.
"My experience was a really positive one," Winter said. "The first thing i downloaded was a John Coltrane bootleg from, I think, a Stockholm, Sweden concert in 1967. It was extremely high quality and it connected me to a fanbase of other jazz people that I'm still friendly with… Napster was combining Facebook, YouTube, iChat and iTunes into one service that ran extremely fluidly. There is no single service in existence today that did what Napster did."
"Downloaded" will be available on Monday (July 1) on VOD, including iTunes. It's also receiving a limited theatrical release, with Winter in Los Angeles tonight, Friday, for a Q&A after the 7 p.m. showing at the Sundance Sunset Cinema.