"Downloaded": The Music Biz Never Did Like That Damn File-Sharing

Downloaded Available on iTunes and Amazon but best viewed in a theater, Alex Winter's documentary Downloaded examines the rise and fall of the file-sharing service known as Napster from 1998 to 2002. Through copious news and interview footage, Napster creator Shawn Fanning is shown as never quite grokking why the Recording Industry Association of America is trying to sue his modest (and surprisingly bro-heavy) start-up out of existence, rather than working with them to create the online distribution system that Fanning and his partner Sean Parker viewed as inevitable. They were right about that, and Downloaded takes an unabashedly pro-downloading and pro-file-sharing point of view, as well it should. The picture does lose some of its focus after the collapse of both Napster and the tech bubble in 2002, speeding through the digital music revolution of the ensuing decade — a topic which deserves its own documentary, as does the culture of Napster's millennial dot-com contemporaries, especially CNET — while making a not-entirely-convincing case that social movements like Occupy Wall Street can be traced back to Napster. Nonetheless, Downloaded is a vital look at the birth of the digital music world we now live in, whether the music industry wants us to live in it or not. Spoiler: They didn't then, and they still don't.

 
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