Alex Winter, one half of the 1980s duo known as Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan aka Wyld Stallyns aka Bill and Ted, has acted sparingly since the second movie, “Bogus Journey,” choosing instead to focus on directing.
His latest project, “Downloaded,” a documentary looking back at the genesis of popular file sharing site Napster, will be a subject of discussion at South by Southwest this year. Winter stopped by MTV News to fill us in on the documentary and shared his thoughts about Napster’s impact on technology today.
“My passion about this was that the real Napster was online from ’99 to 2002. It was the invention of peer-to-peer technology in a way that actually worked, meaning Shawn Fanning created Napster when he was 18. He had this vision bringing the whole world together via music and creating a global community,” Winter said.
The director couldn’t help but be fascinated with the newness of what Napster brought to the table. “Nothing like that had ever existed. It was the dial-up era. Everything was really slow. You couldn’t download anything without it breaking or falling apart,” he said. “There was no music downloading. Him and Sean Parker, a close friend of his, they launched Napster in ’98-’99, and it took off like a brushfire.”
One of the aspects that Winter explores with his documentary is the lasting effect of Napster on the technological world today. “It paved the way for basically the world that we’re in today, in terms of, not only Facebook and other social media technologies, but also paved the way for global transparency on a broader level that led to WikiLeaks and Anonymous and the Occupy movement, the world we live in now, which is kind of a divide between new technologies and the pre-existing system and the conflicts that arose. Is it right to download? Are we pirates if we download? Who’s right and who’s wrong?”
Winter said that from the very beginning of filesharing, there was a misunderstanding of what Nasper really was. “What struck me, even back in ’99 and 2000 was that there was a misunderstanding, I felt. These guys weren’t pirates. These guys were looking to create a global net community from the very beginning, trying to get licensing deals from the record industry. This technology just came out of left field and took immediately. To be fair to [the record industry], they were just like, ’Well, our entire business model is now in jeopardy, and we’re too big an industry to suddenly go, Oh sure, two 18-year-old kids with no business experience, sure, we’ll hand our entire business over to you.'”
According to Winter, we are only now just coming to terms with the technology Napster made popular. “I really understood both sides, but it was clear to me in ’98-’99 that A) it was an extraordinary thing that the world had connected and that this global community had erupted over night,” Winter said. “That was very cool, but also that this technology wasn’t going to go away, and people were going to have to figure out a way to work with it. That’s starting to happen now, but it’s taken a really long time.”
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