Trent Reznor, a vocal tech leader in the music industry, would rather die than give Apple control — or let it tell him that he can’t use profanity in the gritty, emotional tracks that have made his band famous.
The singer had spent months hard at work on an iPhone App. The result, recently unveiled, was an ambitious app which offers Nine Inch Nails lyrics, forums, and a means of locating fellow fans looking for friends via GPS. The app also provided live feeds of concert video and more.
Apple, fresh off controversial rejections of the South Park and Baby Shaker apps, approved the app, but this week rejected an update to the app which would have allowed users to listen to tracks from NIN’s landmark 1994 album “The Downward Spiral”. It cited the profane lyrics on the tracks as the reason for the censorship. Ironically, the tracks are available on iTunes, and have been strong sellers for the music service which the App Store is built on.
If that contradiction makes little sense to you, it doesn’t to Mr. Reznor, either. He unloaded against Apple in a recent blog posting, writing:
And while we’re at it, I’ll voice the same issue I had with Wal-Mart years ago, which is a matter of consistency and hypocrisy. Wal-Mart went on a rampage years ago insisting all music they carry be censored of all profanity and ‘clean’ versions be made for them to carry.
Bands (including Nirvana) tripped over themselves editing out words, changing album art, etc to meet Wal-Mart’s standards of decency–because Wal-Mart sells a lot of records. NIN refused, and you’ll notice a pretty empty NIN section at any Wal-Mart.
My reasoning was this: I can understand if you want the moral posturing of not having any ‘indecent’ material for sale–but you could literally turn around 180 degrees from where the NIN record would be and purchase the film ‘Scarface’ completely uncensored, or buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto where you can be rewarded for beating up prostitutes. How does that make sense?
Come on Apple, think your policies through and for f***’s sake get your app approval scenario together.
Apple, despite repeated attempts from Reznor and the press has refused to comment about its censorship tactics or to reverse its decision. The disappointing part was that the update also contained essentially stability fixes, which prevented the app from crashing. Without the fix, the app is drawing many negative reviews, but as Mr. Reznor puts it, his “hands are tied” as Apple won’t approve the update.
While Apple is hardly the first commercial media retailer to practice censorship of violent, profane, or sexual content in recent years, its censorship on the iPhone stands out as an industry extreme. Whereas retailers like Target, or even Walmart at least stock violent/profane movies and video games, Apple, with its App Store, has thus far most aggressively rejected content that might be found morally questionable by some.
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