Pick of the Week #76

This week’s Pick is the upcoming documentary by Alex Winter, ’Downloaded’. Premiering at SXSW 2013, this documentary focusing on Napster and the advent of digital file sharing investigates the digital revolution; “the kids that created it, the bands and the businesses that were affected by it, and its impact on the world at large.”

Napster, founded in 1999, was originally a file sharing service and has more recently become an online music store. The introduction of peer-to-peer sharing and illegal downloads created a technology paradigm shift, upended the music business and changed the world. Described in the trailer as “building a business by facilitating the stealing of artist’s music”, the creators in contrast explain that they wanted to “share emotion over the internet” and “create a way to meet people through music”. The film sets out to assess the issue from all points in the chain from musician to downloader, featuring interviews with musicians such as Noel Gallagher, DJ Spooky, Mike D from the Beastie Boys and Henry Hollins, to label heads, Government Officials and leaders in the world of civil and digital rights.

“When Napster launched the peer-to-peer phenomemon,” Winter explains, “a new frontier was birthed out of the ether. We’re still reeling from the arrival of this new landscape. And while there has certainly been evolution in the world of social media and networks, nothing currently exists that embodies the full functionality that Napster had twelve years ago. I think it has something to do with the youthful naïveté of launching a new technology without either concern or full understanding of its disruptive nature.”

This documentary has a timely release in light of recent events with HMV. Rather than an issue of the 00’s, the topic of creative content downloads is ongoing and not set to go away any time soon as we see that “the record companies are not adjusting to technology.” HMV went into administration this week, 5 months after one of its own employees wrote a scathing blog post on the companies reluctance to embrace Internet based revenue, to their demise. In his prophetic article Phillip Beeching writes, “HMV’s single biggest mistake has been a lack of investment in their online offering”. Where were they when were getting into their stride? What about Spotify? Beeching points out that with HMVs established brand and audience, they could have capitalised on the online retail and music downloads market easily.

2012 also saw the court case for Megavideo founder Kim Dotcom sparking controversy over not only how we use file sharing, but what the laws should be. ‘Downloaded’ arrives at a time when moral and economic questions as to how we are to proceed are yet to be answered.

“Downloaded is a documentary that has allowed each participant to tell this tale,” Winter concludes. “Not just Napster’s extraordinary rise and fall, but the wider story of how we got from Winamp to Wikileaks. And the great disruptions caused by new technologies that are far from being resolved.”

‘Downloaded’ will premiere at SXSW 2013.

Alex Winter’s website

VH1 Rock Docs



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