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This article was published in July 2013. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Nine Inch Nails: music video poses risk in photosensitive epilepsy

5 Jul 2013

A new music video by Nine Inch Nails has made headline news largely because it poses a serious risk to anyone with photosensitive epilepsy. The band’s official YouTube channel claims that Epilepsy Action has issued a warning about the video – despite the fact that the organisation was never consulted

The video was made for the Nine Inch Nails track ‘Came back haunted’ and directed by successful cinematic visionary David Lynch. It opens with a warning that the video may trigger seizures, followed by several seconds of high-contrast flashing red, black and white frames.

The video is composed of still photographs – namely a black and white shot of a ballerina with the image of a spider superimposed upon it. The video also sports flashing red squares and blocks of light and dark, intercut with shaking hand-held shots of Nine Inch Nails singer, Trent Reznor (pictured), singing.

The video has been posted on the band’s official YouTube channel. Beneath the video, a description states: “WARNING: This video has been identified by Epilepsy Action to potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.”

Trent ReznorEpilepsy Action is glad that a warning is being shown on the video. However, the organisation can confirm that it was never consulted about whether the video presented a problem. The charity is looking into the situation and will report further in the coming weeks about this issue.

It seems likely that the video would fail to meet Ofcom regulations that govern what can be shown on television or in the cinema. These regulations are used to test whether a music video might trigger seizures in some people with photosensitive epilepsy. A machine called the Harding Flash and Pattern Analyzer can be used to check that content is safe to broadcast.

Unfortunately, these regulations do not cover anything broadcast online, so the video can be shown on sites like YouTube. The video will potentially be seen by millions of people. It appears conscientious to show a warning before the video. However, many people with photosensitive epilepsy do not know they have it until something like this triggers their first seizure.

Any people with epilepsy who know they are photosensitive are advised to be very careful if they watch this video. Some sites hosting the video may play automatically, before you realise what you are watching – caution is advised.

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