Metallica and Morality: The Rhetorical Battleground of the Napster Wars


This article discusses the rhetoric of the highly publicised Napster legal cases, arguing that it is firmly based in the aesthetic and moral implications of copyright infringement. To contextualise current trends historically, the paper summarises insights from recent work analysing the importance of Romanticism to an understanding of contemporary copyright practice. Utilising this theoretical background, the article highlights the importance of the Romantic separation of art and commerce for the recording industry’s anti-piracy campaigns. This enables the industry to centre current rhetoric concerning Napster on artists rather than on commercial interests. This turns copyright infringement into not only an aesthetic crime, but also into a moral one. The article argues that the only way the recording industry can prevent substantial online piracy is by creating and winning a moral argument. However, it concludes that the industry is currently unsuccessful in this aim and offers some reasons for this, themselves predicated upon the Romantic separation of art and market.

How to Cite

Marshall L., (2016) “Metallica and Morality: The Rhetorical Battleground of the Napster Wars”, Entertainment and Sports Law Journal 1(1). p.2. doi:







Lee Marshall (Lecturer in sociology at University College Worcester)





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