RIAA, Label Crack Down On Nine Inch Nails MP3s, Webmasters Say
Just days after two new songs hit radio,
industry organization, Nothing Records
hunt for copies on the Net.
Less than three days after two new Nine Inch Nails songs
began airing on U.S. radio, the band's label and the Recording
Industry Association of America have begun hunting for
unauthorized MP3s of those songs and have ordered at least a
dozen websites to remove them, according to webmasters and
"I had the songs online for about 18 hours or so," wrote
18-year-old webmaster Jay DeBard, who runs the five-year-old
Burning Souls (www.burningsouls.com) website.
DeBard, who said he's tried to get Nothing's permission to
officially post NIN music for five years, barely had the songs
up for a full day before he received an e-mail from the legal
department of Nothing Records requesting that he take them
down, he said. DeBard claimed that more than 1,000 people
had downloaded each song in that 18-hour period.
Radio programmers across the country
began playing two new tracks — "The
Day the World Went Away" (RealAudio
excerpt) and "Starfuckers, Inc."
(RealAudio excerpt) — from Trent
Reznor's popular industrial-rock band
earlier this week. But industry experts
said the illegal copies of the songs
scheduled to appear on NIN's upcoming
album, The Fragile, have been popping
up on Internet for nearly two weeks.
"Your site offers downloadable files
containing recordings by Nine Inch
Nails," reads a letter e-mailed to at least
two Nine Inch Nails fansite webmasters.
"These recordings have not been
authorized for reproduction and
distribution by your site." Nothing
Records spokesperson Susan Swan said
she could not confirm the letters received
by the webmasters came from the label.
The letter goes on to request that webmasters remove the
unauthorized sound files from their sites. It adds that a copy of
the letter will be sent to the RIAA, which also issued
cease-and-desist letters to NIN websites.
The RIAA action was undertaken in conjunction with the
record-industry organization's effort to combat piracy on the
Internet, according to Frank Creighton, the RIAA's senior vice
president and director of anti-piracy efforts. "Like we do for all
of our other members, we aggressively attack Internet sites
that are putting [copyrighted] material out," Creighton said.
"We've been particularly aggressive in this case because this
is prerelease material."
Over the past two weeks, the RIAA has contacted nearly a
dozen websites with cease-and-desist letters requesting that
illegal NIN music be removed, Creighton said. Noncompliance
could result in severe civil and criminal penalties, he added.
Webmasters ignoring the letters face potential criminal fines of
up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine, as well as civil
penalties equal to $100,000 per infringement.
Reznor was not available to comment on the letters, according
to a spokesperson. "Trent plans to speak on the MP3 issue
soon," Swan said. "But he's currently finishing a record and is
The posting of the NIN tracks is the latest in what Creighton
said has become a disturbing trend for many major rock
It's a scenario that has become almost as commonplace as
mosh pits at rock shows: A song is recorded, it's leaked to
radio, and hours — or even minutes — later, it's available to
the world on the Internet thanks to enterprising fans.
In the past year, the RIAA has taken similar actions with sites
posting prerelease material by other artists, including
singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited" (RealAudio
excerpt); Pearl Jam's entire fifth album, Yield; and U2's
"Discotheque" (RealAudio excerpt). The organization has
also fought to remove "Ray of Light" (RealAudio excerpt), a
recent hit single from dance diva Madonna.
Webmasters were quick to tape the NIN songs off radio,
digitally encode them as MP3 files and post them on their
websites, but Nothing moved just as swiftly to request that the
songs be taken down, several webmasters said.
"I knew this would happen," DeBard said, "but I didn't know
how soon it would happen. I was planning to take the songs
down when the single was released, since it would be
accessible to everyone by then." DeBard posted the songs
Tuesday evening after taping them from WFNX-FM in Boston,
This is not the first time DeBard had been asked to take illegal
NIN tracks off of his site, he said. Another fan, who asked not
to be named and who also has an unofficial NIN site, said he
had the files available, but, fearing trouble from his Internet
service provider, took them down voluntarily before being
contacted by the RIAA.
In an effort to create standards for the increasing number of
MP3s appearing on the Internet, the Secure Digital Music
Initiative — a coalition of more than 100 music and technology
companies — formed in December. The organization has been
working for eight months developing standards to deter the
circulation of unauthorized files.
"Nothing like this has ever happened to me before," wrote
16-year-old Californian Dan Means, webmaster of the "Nine
Inch Nails MP3 Music Archive" (www.ozonedesign.com/nin),
which currently features a copy of the cease-and-desist letter.
"I received the e-mail from Nothing on Wednesday morning.
Although disappointed, I wasn't surprised when I received the
e-mail," he added. In addition to the new songs, he said he
posted 46 other NIN songs in the near-CD-quality MP3 format.
"So I get a lot of requests for MP3s and condolences for losing
such a good site," Means said.
The new double-sided single from NIN includes sounds and
ideas familiar to the music of the tortured industrial rocker
Reznor: whispered, wounded vocals; dark, ambient keyboards;
distorted guitars; pounding drums; and profanity.
"The Day the World Went Away," due in stores Tuesday,
opens with ominous keyboards that are quickly overcome by
slowly strummed, distorted guitars. Reznor's whispered voice
breaks through exactly one-and-a-half minutes in with the
lyrics "I'd listen to the words he'd say/ In his voice I heard
decay/ The plastic face forced to portray/ The insides left cold
The lyrically and musically pointed "Starfuckers, Inc.," a
propulsive track in which a robotic-sounding Reznor sneers
lyrics over a skittering electronic beat, has the techno rock
sound of such early NIN songs as "Head Like a Hole" and
1997's "Perfect Drug."
"My god is in the back of the limousine/ My god comes in a
wrapper of cellophane/ My god is a shallow little bitch trying to
make a scene," Reznor deadpans over a driving beat. The
chorus of the song explodes over a buzz saw of guitars, with
Reznor shouting the words "Starfuckers/ Starfuckers/
Nine Inch Nails' genre-defining industrial-rock debut, 1989's
Pretty Hate Machine, was followed by a pair of remix EPs,
1992's Broken and Fixed. The first album and 1994's The
Downward Spiral, which inspired a sequel remix album, Further
Down the Spiral (1995), were composed and performed entirely
by Reznor, who is believed to have taken the same route on
Senior Writer Gil Kaufman
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.