The arrival of Napster in June 1999 was not universally popular. For it's users the chance to exchange files of music could mean acquiring whole libraries of music for pennies, but for the majority of the music industry it caused alarm.
Some artists supported the idea as another way to promote their music and felt that if people liked what they heard they would buy the CD as well.
Others were not so sure. Metallica and Dr. Dre filed lawsuits against Napster in 2000 for copyright violation and this was quickly followed by a case brought against Napster by various record companies.
Napster lost the case with the record companies and eventually settled the cases with Metallica and Dr. Dre but only after declaring itself bankrupt in 2002 having run out of money to fight the various legal cases it was embroiled in.
So it was the might of the record companies and some of the biggest names in music that did for Napster eventually but there were attacks upon the site from a number of directions employing some rather creative methods.
In 2000 Michael Fix was stunned to see how easy it was to download music for free from Napster.
His wife, Stephanie, was a singer and songwriter and Michael was concerned that her career could be harmed by the fact that people had an alternative to buying her records if they liked her music.
He decided to take direct action against Napster and, along with his brother John, began to upload files to the site labelled as being songs by artists such as Bruce Springsteen.
However, the songs would only start with the tune it was labelled as. Thirty seconds or so in the brothers had edited in one of Stepanie’s songs.
This form of protest was initially attacked as being a form of promotion for Stephanie’s work so the brothers quickly modified their methods to make it clear it was an attempt to foil online piracy rather than a tawdry commercial device.
They set up a website explaining how to create ‘cuckoo’s eggs’ to upload to Napster.
These would be tracks labelled as popular songs and would indeed have the song as labelled at the start of the track but, again, thirty seconds in the track would be replaced by random noises such as bird song or audio clips from cartoons.
The Fixes explained that if people were, as was being claimed by some, downloading track by track and listening along to the songs they would be able to stop the download and not be affected.
They were targeting those who were exchanging industrial levels of music without actually checking to see what they were actually getting.
The Tabloids, a rock band from Oakland, California, set up a website encouraging people to do the same thing and named their mislabeled songs ‘Napster Bombs’.
In the end these attacks were little more than an annoyance to Napster and its users but it’s encouraging to know you didn’t have to be a petulant millionaire to be passionate about the fate of the artist in the digital age...