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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

It's been a busy week for Trent Reznor, the mastermind of rock band Nine Inch Nails. In the midst of touring North American amphitheaters, word came back that Apple Computer had censored the bands' most recent free iPhone application update for their album called  The Downward Spiral.

The reason from Apple was "Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple's reasonable judgment may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users."

Nine Inch Nails were instructed to change the application, and resubmit. Period. End.

The same week that Apple rejected Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor was awarded a Webby Award for "Artist of The Year." It's the highest achievement you can receive from the online organization.

The Webby Awards honors international excellence on the Internet. The organization was established in 1996, when online creativity was in its infancy. Today, The Webbys are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 550-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. According to the organization, "Trent Reznor's ability to connect with fans far and wide through the Web makes him a qualified ambassador of online culture, and arguably one of the most-recognized artists harnessing the power of the Internet to spread music."

How ironic. One organization giveth, while another taketh away.

Why Apple decided to censor Nine Inch Nails is difficult to understand. After all, how can Nine Inch Nails be asked to change their work, but the Apple Safari browser continues to deliver deeply disturbing violent images and outrageous pornography? Why does MacMail continually deliver obscene spam? If Nine Inch Nails iPhone application is so morally reprehensible, why are there iPhone applications that simulate the mechanics of machine guns, hand guys, grenades and knifes?

No, being corporate morality police is definitely the wrong position for Apple to take. And if they are going to hold to that stance, they should be prepared for the onslaught of criticism they will find from free speech advocates. Apple cannot mandate one decency standard for recording artists, and ignore their own rules for films and the internet. Personally, I'd prefer if Apple let the consumer determine what constituted decency, but if Apple wants to establish their own moral standard, they at least need to be consistent with it.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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