And justice for all

Metallica's pursuit of Napster inspires protests and parodies across the Web.

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Metallica is currently Public Enemy No. 1 for many music-loving webheads — and the Net is throbbing with protests and parodies of the heavy-metal band that filed suit against Napster and demanded that more than 300,000 folks who have traded tunes like “One” and “Enter Sandman” online be blocked from the music-swapping service. Last week, as Napster won a Webby Award for best music site and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich geared up to debate rapper and outspoken MP3 supporter Chuck D on “Charlie Rose,” there was hardly a corner of the Web that wasn’t riffing on Metallica’s attack and the Net’s ability to free the music. Here’s a quick roundup:

Someone called “Danzo” tried to auction “Metallica’s integrity” on eBay. (The auction has since been canceled — but a screen shot of the hoax endures.)

A punk band released an MP3 of a song called “I Got Sued by Metallica.”

At MetallicaSucks.com, a site “chronicling the demise of one the greatest metal bands to exist [and] plotting their path from metal gods to has-beens,” Napster fans urged others to complain to Metallica’s managers and record label, providing the contact information to do so. The site also hosts parody songs, such as “Blame Metallica” and “Enter Napster.”

Meanwhile the MetallicaBoycott.com site urges — what else? — a Metallica boycott. “Is it not enough that we as fans have lined their pockets by purchasing their CDs?” it implores. The folks behind this site are apparently incredulous that the band could be demanding more money from its music-swapping fans.

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Countless other sites are mocking the band’s decision to go after fans who have swapped its music. PayLars.com is taking donations for Ulrich and his fellow band members to make up for all the revenue Metallica thinks it’s losing to online MP3 trading. And the Pigdog Journal wonders if Ulrich, who expresses disbelief that people think they can listen to music free, has ever heard of radio.

NewGrounds even posted a spoof “movie” of Metallica members chatting about how they love it when fans pay ridiculous sums for concert tickets and T-shirts, but not when they swap songs. And the “skit” ends violently.

Meanwhile, the band tried to get across its point of view with an online chat at Artist Direct and by answering questions from Slashdot readers. But its position — that musicians own the copyright to their music and fans can’t simply listen to it without paying — faces some tough resistance. Two-thirds of online music shoppers expect free digital downloads, according to a recent poll by marketing research firm Greenfield Online.

Besides, as the creators of Metallicster, a yet-to-be-released “dedicated Napster clone for spreading Metallica media,” put it: “There’s no way anyone out there (including stupid bands) could ever come even close to stopping the worldwide distribution of MP3s and other such media across the Web.”

David Cassel is an Oakland, Calif.-based freelance writer covering the Internet and popular culture.

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