You may remember a story from last month, Nine Inch Nails F***’s Major Labels Like An Animal, when Nine Inch Nails announced at its site that it is going forward without a major-label contract.
Well, what comes around goes around.
Nine Inch Nails has been planning for a long time to try an interesting experiment with their latest album, Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D.
The release features fourteen tracks from the group’s Year Zero album, remixed by a select group of Trent Reznor’s “heroes, friends, and strangers.” Along with the release, NIN is including remixable Ableton Live files, separated by instrument, for every track from Year Zero, so that anyone could make their own mix of the CD. The band also planned to have a dedicated website for uploading, sharing and rating user remixes.
At the last moment, Universal music has thrown a wrench into NIN’s plans, sicking its lawyers on NIN, warning the group not to put up a website for fan remixes.
Trent Reznor explains the situation:
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.
While I am profoundly perturbed with this stance as content owners continue to stifle all innovation in the face of the digital revolution, it is consistent with what they have done in the past. So… we are challenged at the last second to find a way of bringing this idea to life without getting splashed by the urine as these media companies piss all over each other’s feet. We have a cool and innovative site ready to launch but we’re currently scratching our heads as to how to proceed.
It will be be interesting to see where these remixes do end up.