Kirk Hammett says that METALLICA "did not make a difference" by launching legal action against Napster in 2000. Although the case was settled out of court, more than 300,000 users were banned from the pioneering music file-sharing service as a result and METALLICA's image took a tremendous beating in the eyes of music fans.
During a career-spanning interview on Dean Delray's "Let There Be Talk" podcast, Hammett was asked to reflect on METALLICA's legal dispute with the file-sharing site.
"The amazing thing now is back then, people were saying, '20 years from now, we're gonna look back and say, 'Goddamn it! We did the right thing,'" the METALLICA guitarist said. "But when people were saying back then we were actually gonna make a difference? We didn't make a difference — we did not make a difference. It happened. And we couldn't stop it, because it was just bigger than any of us — this trend that happened that fucking sunk the fucking music industry. There was no way that we could stop it. It was a perfectly human thing that just happened. And what had happened was all of a sudden, it was just more convenient to get music and it was less convenient to pay for it. And there you have it.
"For me, it was kind of a leveling factor," he continued. "All of a sudden, all of us were brought back to the minstrel age now where musicians' only source of income is actually playing. And it's like that nowadays — except that a lot of these bands [chuckles] aren't really playing; they're pressing 'play' or something. But there are a lot of bands who actually fucking play their instruments and have to play to still be a band and still fucking survive. And that's cool, because it really separates who wants to do this and who is just here for the fucking pose. … You'll see who's passionate about it and who's really into it for the art of it, and then you'll see who's not so passionate about it and into the commerce of it.
"Maybe things might change," Hammett philosophized. "Maybe all of a sudden people will just start to prefer CDs or whatever format as to what's available now. Who's to say? I mean, it changed all so quickly back then; it could fucking change just as quickly now."
METALLICA sued Napster after the band discovered that a leaked demo version of its song "I Disappear" was circulating on the pioneering music file-sharing service before it was released.
In May 2000, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich famously delivered a literal truckload of paper to Napster Inc., listing hundreds of thousands of people who allegedly used the company's software to share unauthorized MP3s of METALLICA's songs.
METALLICA representatives compiled the more than 60,000-page list of 335,435 Napster user IDs over one weekend in response to Napster's promise to terminate the accounts of users who trade material without permission. Real names were not included in the list.
In later years, METALLICA embraced digital music: in December 2012, the band made all of its studio albums, as well as various live material, singles, remixes and collaborations, available on Spotify.