Apple Rejects Nine Inch Nails iPhone App Over Objectionable Content

nin-logoTrent Reznor just announced, via Twitter, that Apple has rejected an update to Nine Inch Nails’ iPhone app.

The objectionable content?

The Downward Spiral.

Hmmmmm. Wonder what line of what song that was……….

Let me know what you think of Apple’s decision in the comments!

Update: Trent Reznor has posted his thoughts on the issue:

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?

You can buy The Downward Fucking Spiral on iTunes, but you can’t allow an iPhone app that may have a song with a bad word somewhere in it. Geez, what if someone in the forum in our app says FUCK or CUNT? I suppose that also falls into indecent material. Hey Apple, I just got some SPAM about fucking hot asian teens THROUGH YOUR MAIL PROGRAM. I just saw two guys having explicit anal sex right there in Safari! On my iPhone!

Come on Apple, think your policies through and for fuck’s sake get your app approval scenario together.

Update 2: Apple has now OK’d the updated Nine Inch Nails app.

24 thoughts on “Apple Rejects Nine Inch Nails iPhone App Over Objectionable Content

  1. Welcome to the new face of censorship. Pervasive technology whose content is controlled by autocratic corporations instead of democratic governments.

  2. Only a government can "censor". What Apple is doing is perfectly within their rights. They are not censoring, they are making a business decision. NIN can market and sell their product through any number of distributors, or on their own. It is disturbing that a business entity is criticized for conducting business in a way consistent with their standards which, at least in the US, they are free to set. If I own a business selling books, I don't have to sell every book that is published. I can choose to not carry books which I find offensive.

    You can only have freedom in your expression when the majority stays out of the way, the government stays out of the way, and the rule of law protects you, even if you are Larry Flynt 🙂

    It's another story if the government starts to censor publications. Heaven help us when government controls free speech. Heaven help us if a democracy controls anything. It's at that point with majority rule that we are in serious trouble. That's why the framers gave the US a republic with the rule of law and representatives. Mob/majority rule is dangerous.

    Also, remember, freedom of expression in the US is not absolute. Go into an airport and say you are going to bomb a plane. Go to an elementary school and express yourself by running around naked. Lot's of "expression" will land you in jail and the US Supreme court will and has upheld such convictions.

    No, the second you force Apple to carry what it considers objectionable is when freedom of speech/expression is gone. Apple, and it's owners also have their right to free expression and speech.

  3. OK, point taken, Apple can do what they want in their own house.

    Next comment…

    Irrespective of whether we think this is good or bad, you've got to hand it to Apple for beng able to stay in the news constantly. This is definitiely gong to fall into the "no PR is bad PR" category.

    Not being a Mac fan I'm getting pretty fed up with having the Apple hype machine shoved in my face on a daily basis. I used to be pleased for Apple for being succesful and "sticking it" to Microsoft, but now the smugness and superiority are just getting really old.

  4. … and yet they're perfectly happy to let you download a game in which you shake babies (until the inevitable media outcry).

    Good job, Apple!

  5. "It's another story if the government starts to censor publications. Heaven help us when government controls free speech. Heaven help us if a democracy controls anything."

    you must not have heard of a thing called FOX news

  6. Well, I hate to get into to politics but the simple fact is the government already censors the media. Its called the FCC.

    But as far as apple goes, yeah they have the right to do this, but I think it seems extremely hypocritical of them to remove an app like this when so many others with equally objectionable content stay, not to mention that if they're willing to sell the downward spiral I don't think they should have much of an issue with the app in the first place.

    I would also guess that if the app somehow brought in money for them it would still be up. But because it was free, well you know…

  7. When MySpace launched their app platform, they were pretty inconsistent with what was deemed acceptable or not. The submissions were not reviewed by a panel, they were reviewed by individuals and different reviewers reached different conclusions on what was acceptable.

    I suspect the same thing is going on at Apple. One person didn't find anything offensive with 'Baby Shaker' but another person found something offensive with 'The Downward Spiral'. No matter how many training sessions or meetings the review groups have there are always going to be inconsistencies like this because you can't get two people to think exactly alike.

    I'm betting this decision will be overturned and the app will be approved once it is re-reviewed.

  8. The troubling thing for me is that nobody knows what's going to get rejected. Trent Reznor's wondering WTF? because there's nothing new in the app that's more objectionable than before.

    Is this just because you got them on a bad day, or is it because they're tightening up what they approve, or did they make a mistake in letting it through the first time? Who knows?

    Why not just slap a Parental Advisory logo on this and be done with it?

  9. You'd think that Apple would be very careful about what they reject by now, but it still seems inconsistent. The baby-shaking app was a fiasco, too.

  10. Also, banning content from high profile artists that is on the cutting edge of music entertainment doesn't really seem to gel with a brand which has built it's reputation on being cool and hip.

  11. Yes – and NIN has a earned a lot of rabid, vocal fans among new media bloggers/podcasters/vloggers because of NIN's use of flexible Creative Commons licensing.

  12. As I said, free speech is not absolute. You can't sell explicit sexual material to minors, you can't use certain profanity on public airwaves, Society has to adopt some line over which the population can't cross.

  13. Even though free speech isn't currently absolute doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be.

    Corporations have the ability to censor speech but they have to answer to the consumer, and if the consumer disagrees with their actions then the corporation either adjusts or loses customers.

    Governments don't have that kind of feedback system, you either follow blindly or they lock you up, or worse… Granted, democracy is designed to institute a feedback system, but as John Stuart Mill would point out, tyranny of a majority is no better than tyranny of the few.

  14. The big point, though, is that Apple shouldn't reject an artist's app because it lets you hear the word "fuck"!

    Put an "R" rating on it, or something like that, and then let people download it already!

  15. I agree, that's why it's important that blogs, forums and other sites make a big deal out of this. If apple hears the huge consumer outrage they'll change, and if they don't we can always buy form their competitors.

  16. Actually, free speech shouldn't be absolute. A private company should be able to limit what they sell. That is NOT censorship. Again, only a government can censor.

    Everyone has a moral line. Where do you draw your line at "free speech"? Should George Carlin (may he rest in peace) be able to give his 7 forbidden word bit to a class of 6 year olds?

    Should a pervert be able to run around an elementary school playground masturbating in the name of free speech?

    Should Apple be forced to carry music which it deems inappropriate for what ever reason they want despite other seemingly contradictory decisions?


    Democracy is a rule by majority. It leads to chaos. A republic, which is what the US is, ruled by law, not a majority like a democracy. That's why your neighbors can't vote to make you move because they don't like the smell of your BBQ. Laws govern what one can and can't do. You can BBQ any smelly thing you like until it breaks a law.

    Apple is not censoring. They are within their rights.

  17. Absolutely they should if that's their policy. They should reject any material they deem is not in keeping with whatever policies they have set for themselves and should not be vilified for their choice.

    While some may not buy from Apple because the reject someone's work. Still others, who agree with Apple, may not buy from Apple if they accept it.

    Profanity is neither hip nor cool. It is the vestige of a poet (or other person) who has no other vocabulary, but that's my opinion…

  18. I disagree with your view on profanity, it can have tremendous shock value and impact when used under the correct circumstances. However, like other words swear words can be bastardized and deprived of meaning through overuse.

    It's true that others may boycott apple if they accept this app, however that is a business choice apple has to consider. But I personally think that the majority of apples consumers have no problem with this app. (At least I know I wouldn't, and I would probably get the app myself if I had an iPhone/ iPod touch)

    Therefore I would advocate that apple returns the app to the store.

  19. Profanity just reminds me of two events. One was on the 5th grade playground when my friends (and, sadly I, too) thought it was cool, even "shocking" to use as much profanity as possible. By the time I got to 6th grade, I realized how immature it was.

    Second, standing in line at a college football game. A couple of drunks behind me couldn't string two words together without one being profane. The man in front of me had his 9'ish year old daughter with him. I asked the drunks politely to please tone it down because of the child. They immediately did, to their credit. That alone tells me they certainly didn't have to use profanity to adequately express themselves, so why do it to start?

    No one has ever given me a rational or even close to good reason to use profanity; shock, and impact can be better had through other words.

    But, I thank God the US constitution protects those who have no other way to express themselves, within lawful and constitutional constraints. Because it protects me, too.

  20. One more thought, sorry.

    Who are you trying to "shock" or "impact"? If your peers use the same profanity, there is no shock or impact value. Therefore, you are trying to shock or impact those who are offended by such language. What's the point? They aren't going to seek out or buy such material anyway, are they? So, unless you force the profanity upon them, you have no audience to shock or impact.

  21. Its true it has definitely lost a lot of its value through overuse. Basically when profanity is used correctly it should portray an extreme emotion towards something. However if you use it in everyday speech it tends to remove that extreme emotional connotation by degrading it to something common.

    No, people who are offended by it won't purchase it, but they will notice it. This has been misused as simply a cheap form of promotion, but originally it was used as sort of a wake up call, an attempt to wake people up to a cause the artist was promoting. Back when music usually had a deeper, often political meaning, it could be powerful, now it doesn't really have much meaning due to the fact that half the songs on the radio swear because its "cool".

    Try expressing very extreme emotion without resorting to some "filler" words like profanity. Even if people substitute words like "darn" for "damn" they still need to use filler. Its extremely difficult to expression that heightened emotional tension without something in that "filler" role.

    Sure, you can explain the emotion without the filler. But sometimes its better to take the more visceral route instead of using metaphors.

  22. Free speech should only be absolute as far as the governments concerned. If you make it absolute elsewhere you infringe on others rights. So in the examples you gave, yes George Carlin could perform his routine in a public school. However in a private school there would be limits determined by the school.

    The second example you gave relates to action, not to speech. I think everyone would agree their is a difference between the two. Speech, in and of itself hurts no one. Maybe it insults them, but it does zero physical harm. However when certain actions are taken, then harm is committed.

    I totally agree with you that apple is within their rights. That is why if consumers are unhappy with this decision they need to speak up about it. That's how the market works. If a company does something you dislike you have the ability to speak up about it and if they don't change and you feel strongly enough you can stop supporting them.

  23. True. Explicatives, profane or not, (a Utah favorite, "Oh my heck"), find their way into most speech, and while I admit explicatives have found their way over my lips, (under my breath) on occasion, I appreciate an artist more who can express themselves without resorting to profanity, or vulgarity. Red Skelton was one of the funniest comedians ever, and campaigned against profanity and vulgar humor. It's highly judgmental on my part, but I think an artist who resorts to profane or vulgar means is just not trying hard enough.

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