I should have put money on it – or at least Twittered – my Monday prediction that Apple would re-allow the new Nine Inch Nails application into the iPhone Store. The Apple store pulled the application because the application – which had NIN albums – included the controversial album, The Downward Spiral.*

Trent Reznor, who’s very internet savvy, first sent out a missive on Twitter and then sent out a press release pushing back against Apple. Today reports are out that Apple has taken back their decision, and the NIN application will now be available for purchase.

Some takeaways:

  1. It helps to be famous, and web-savvy**, when trying to push back against corporate censorship***. See also: the Twitter masses push back against Amazon in the #amazonfail story.
  2. This is possible, as 9to5mac reports, because of a new ratings systems with the version 3 iPhone. The ratings levels: 4+, 9+, 12+, 17+****.
  3. This does not change the structure that Apple has created for not only controlling the products for accessing content (say, iPhones) but also the content that can be accessed on those systems. In fact, this decision, and the voluntary ratings system, bolster that. As Hugh D’Andrade at the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues, this would be like buying a car where you couldn’t freely pick the music you could listen to in the car. D’Andrade concludes: “As we’ve pointed out many times in the past, the Digital Rights Management that Apple uses to lock up content isn’t about protecting artists from piracy: it’s about protecting Apple from competition.”*****
  4. The language that Apple used to explain why the NIN application was originally rejected is ubiquitous and vague. The reasons: “objectionable content” that was “offensive or obscene content.” The follow-up question: to whom? As new technologies provide new spaces for free expression, private companies must answer these questions. A rating system is one way, at least, to allow content that parents of a 4 year old may object to, while not lowering the bar to the Mark Twain quote: “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”

* In a conversation yesterday with a friend, I briefly forgot the album name. “What was that controversial album from NIN, you know, in high school?” He knew it. This whole conversation seems somehow so dated.
** Trent Reznor has, for example, 467,113 followers on Twitter. As of Friday noon EST, he’s #51 of all Twitter users.
*** The term “censorship” is, of course, inaccurate. Private companies aren’t beholden to upholding the First Amendment, and it is easy to imagine the kind of content Apple would very much not want to be associated with.
**** I love it! 4+?!
***** I recommend the whole article – it’s short and fantastic.