The story of Napster, the failed online song-swapping service, always promised the kind of larger-than-life elements Hollywood thrives on – corporate intrigue, a nail-biting court battle and a young hero.
Now comes Napster, the movie.
Cable network MTV on Wednesday said it has reached a deal for the exclusive rights to the life story of Shawn Fanning, who created the controversial and wildly popular file-sharing program in 1999 while he was a 19-year-old student at Northeastern University in Boston.
The movie, tentatively scheduled to air in 2003-2004, may even star Fanning, now 21, as himself.
“Anything is possible and the fact that he may star as himself hasn’t been ruled out,” said a spokeswoman for MTV, which is owned by Viacom Inc.
Fanning dropped out of college to launch the business around the program he dubbed Napster – based on his own nickname – and which sparked a revolution by enabling millions of fans to swap songs on the Internet.
Napster was a hit with users, attracting some 60 million at its peak, but the service was loathed by the powerful recording industry, which launched a massive legal battle against the company, calling it a haven for copyright infringement.
Napster ultimately collapsed this year under the weight of its legal battles and is currently being sold in bankruptcy court.
Fanning himself enjoyed a bit of pop icon status, gracing the cover of various magazines and epitomizing to many the pioneering and untamed spirit of the Internet during the boom years of the late 1990s.
An MTV spokeswoman said it hired filmmaker Alex Winter to write and direct the film. Fanning is set to collaborate on the screenplay, which will features Fanning’s childhood and his life before and after Napster.
Fanning is also planning to executive produce the soundtrack, according to MTV.
Winters, a writer and a director, is also known for acting in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “The Lost Boys.”
Fanning’s attorney declined comment.
Earlier this week, restructuring expert Hobey Truesdell, who oversaw the liquidation of junk bond investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, was named the trustee in the Napster bankruptcy.
The song-swapping service recently fetched an estimated $11 million bid from an undisclosed bidder.