It's obviously a very interesting time in the media world today. With the boom of the internet as a marketing device and inventing ways for artists to connect to fans, as well as for people to get music, it seems like we are in a massive state of growing pains. One man who has never been shy to speak out, Trent Reznor, recently posted on his website about his irks with all that is happening, and how it is directly effecting him and his art.
Several years ago I persuaded my record company to let me begin posting my master recording files on nin.com, in order to see what kind of user-generated content would materialize from my music. I had no agenda... the main reason I did it was because I thought it was cool and something I would have liked to do if it was available to me. A lot of really fun stuff started to happen... communities developed, web sites were created, even traditional radio got in the game and began playing the fans' mixes. I felt the experiment, despite not having a specific purpose, was a success. So much so that we're now releasing a remix album that includes some of this fan-created material as well as the actual multi track master files for every song from my latest record, Year Zero.
One piece was missing to me and that was an official nin.com presence for aggregating all of the fan-created remixes. Several intrepid fans had stepped up and done a great job providing a destination for people to post these, but I felt all along this was a function I should more directly support. So, upon release of this new remix album, our plan has been to launch an official site on nin.com that would provide a place for all fan remix material and other interactive fan experiences.
Or so I thought. On Saturday morning I became aware of a legal hitch in our plans. My former record company and current owner of all these master files, Universal, is currently involved in a lawsuit with other media titans Google (YouTube) and News Corp (MySpace). Universal is contending that these sites do not have what is referred to as "safe harbor" under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and therefore are in copyright violation because users have uploaded music and video content that is owned by Universal. Universal feels that if they host our remix site, they will be opening themselves up to the accusation that they are sponsoring the same technical violation of copyright they are suing these companies for. Their premise is that if any fan decides to remix one of my masters with material Universal doesn't own - a "mash-up", a sample, whatever - and upload it to the site, there is no safe harbor under the DMCA (according to Universal) and they will be doing exactly what MySpace and YouTube are doing. This behavior may get hauled out in court and impact their lawsuit. Because of this they no longer will host our remix site, and are insisting that Nine Inch Nails host it. In exchange for this they will continue to let me upload my Universal masters and make them available to fans, BUT shift the liability of hosting them to me. Part of the arrangement is having user licenses that the fans sign (not unlike those on MySpace or You Tube) saying they will not use unauthorized materials. If they WERE to do such a thing, everybody sues everybody and the world abruptly ends...
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