Editorial: Sorry, Lars, But We’re Not Buying It

Lars Ulrich may think he’s the master of puppets, but the tiny Metallica drummer doesn’t realize his past battery on online filesharing is unforgiven — and when it comes to what he says now, nothing else matters.

A massive forehead Ulrich appears in a new video debuting the “Metallica YouTube channel,” an apparent new attempt to smooth over the wrinkles from that one day when he, you know, killed Napster. Ulrich talks about how cool it is to see Metallica’s music shared on the Internet and also offers to rent ad space on his forehead for future messages.

This latest charade might not be so transparent if not for the far more obvious one preceding it just a few days ago. Ulrich, upon having learned his band’s upcoming unreleased CD had been leaked onto the Web, released a statement saying he was fine with it. In fact, he practically embraced it.

“It’s 2008 and it’s part of how it is these days, so it’s fine. We’re happy,” he said.

Apparently, that’s quite different from “how it was those days” back in 2000, when Ulrich went before a U.S. Senate Committee and read the following:

What about the users of Napster, the music consumers? It’s like each of them won one of those contests where you get turned loose in a store for five minutes and get to keep everything you can load into your shopping cart. With Napster, though, there’s no time limit and everyone’s a winner-except the artist. Every song by every artist is available for download at no cost and, of course, with no payment to the artist, the songwriter or the copyright holder.

If you’re not fortunate enough to own a computer, there’s only one way to assemble a music collection the equivalent of a Napster user’s: theft. Walk into a record store, grab what you want and walk out. The difference is that the familiar phrase a computer user hears, “File’s done,” is replaced by another familiar phrase-“You’re under arrest.”

So why the change in attitude? Allow me to translate the band’s current thoughts:

“We’ve realized we may not be as relevant as we once were…and also that our fight to shut down Napster several years ago didn’t actually stop online filesharing. Even though Lars wanted to try to start another court battle, we had James Hetfield sit on him until he agreed to start pretending he was okay with the whole Internet thing so maybe all those people would forget about that stuff from before and say good things about us again.”

It’s sad but true — and as far as I’m concerned, Ulrich is the one for whom the bell has tolled.