Monday, May 06, 2013

Hot Docs Review: Downloaded

It is hard to believe that it has been a little over a decade since Napster closed up shop. Considering how fast technology is advancing these days, it is easy to forget both Napster’s importance and the influence it had on several products we still use today. Fortunately Alex Winter’s film, Downloaded, is here to remind us of exactly how instrumental Napster really was.

The story of Napster has been well documented in the media. It all started in 1998 when two teenagers, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, came up with an innovated program to facilitate peer-to-peer file sharing over the internet. Little did they know that their invention would both revolutionize the world and single-handedly cripple the music industry. By 1999 Napster was dominating university servers as students were downloading entire catalogues of music. Due to the popularity of the program, Fanning and Parker quickly found themselves deep in lawsuits.

Winter’s film does a great job of documenting the rise and fall of Napster, and the legacy that it has left on technology. Speaking with Fanning and Parker themselves, as well as others who help to build Napster, Winter shows how Napster started out in earnest. Although Fanning and Parker did not intend for Napster to turn into the beast that it became, there was no denying that they tapped into a void that no one thought to fill.

In fact, Downloaded points out how the music industry, who have made millions off of technological advancements in the past, was shockingly behind the ball on what Napster was doing. They figured that their lawsuits would quickly silence Napster, but it actually had an adverse effect. The legal publicity only helped to bring Napster greater attention worldwide. Music executives also did not anticipate all of the clone torrent sites that Napster would inspire.

Downloaded may not have much to offer in regards to new revelations about Napster, but it provides plenty of insight into the highs and lows that both Fanning and Parker endured. The pair may have been labeled pirates in the media, but it is important to realize that tools such as iTunes would not exist without Napster. Downloaded is a film that does a good job of documenting one of the most important innovations in the last decade. While the rise and fall of Napster may have been swift, its legacy will last forever.

3 comments:

  1. Although it does manage to paint a picture of the impact Napster has I thought that as a documentary it just wasn't structured enough. There were a couple of title cards, but I never felt everything shown after each of them was related.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting take on it, Nostra. The structure is one complaint that I have not heard too many people complain about. It did not bother me at all on my initial viewing of the film.

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  2. Anonymous2:31 am

    Sounds interesting. I think I'll download it.

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