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Nope. It's all part of PR efforts for the new Nine Inch Nails (NIN) album Year Zero, says Janko Roettgers on P2P Blog. And it's landed German blogger Christoph Boecken in trouble with Vivendi Universal, a member of the Big 4 music cartel.
"The album is promoted with what viral marketing experts call an Alternative Reality Game," says P2P Blog.

NIN fans and Alternative Reality Games players have been exchanging clues on message boards and, "scouring the bathrooms of clubs hosting NIN gigs after mysterious flash drives started appearing, containing MP3s from the upcoming album along with additional clues," says the story. "And they have been swapping these MP3s online after they discovered that some of the audio files contain hidden messages themselves."

Enter Boecken, who wasn't looking to be accused of, "spreading unauthorized MP3s". So he blogged a Flash player that allowed streaming, but not downloading, of one of the songs, says Roettgers.

Then, "A few days later Boecken received a letter from a well-known German law firm that handles piracy cases for NIN's label Universal Music, accusing him of copyright infringement," he continues. "The letter didn't only demand him taking down the MP3 file in question, but also paying 500 Euro (about 675 USD) to cover the expenses for sending this letter. Invoices like this are regularly part of cease and desist letters in Germany.

"Boecken felt betrayed by Universal. After all, he had helped them with their marketing - and now he was supposed to pay for his efforts? He wrote a couple of frustrated rants on his blog, but eventually decided to pay the money because hiring a lawyer and dragging out the case could have been much more expensive."

Outraged fans responded, emailing and phoning Universal until finally, the label apologized and promised to pay Boecken his expenses and, "give him a chance to meet the Nine Inch Nails backstage," says P2P Blog.

End of story?

Nope. Think, 'Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG's RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).'

"The music and entertainment gossip blog Idolator got an email from the RIAA, demanding to take down one of the virally marketed NIN MP3s, just about at the same time when Boecken got his costly C&D letter," says Roettgers.

"Idolator didn't have to pay up, but they were pissed nonetheless."

Transcribed by Lt. Randazzo

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