A digital rights standoff between YouTube and independent labels has attracted the attention of Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx, who's urging the band's fans to pay attention to a conflict that could have a major and lasting impact on online music discovery.

Sixx posted his plea on the band's Facebook page, writing, "Red Alert: Motley Crue was on an indie label (that we started) and later signed to a major after they saw what we already knew about ourselves.Eventually we took our masters (and power) back and have been indie ever since….Please read below…You need to read the WHOLE thing……….Bands and labels need a level playing field…..Please comment intelligently…THIS IS AN IMPORTANT TIME IN MUSIC."

That post pointed fans to a New York Times article that explains the battle brewing between YouTube and a faction of indie labels who are reluctant to sign new licensing terms they see as unfavorable -- and now reportedly run the risk of having their videos (and their attendant ad revenue) blocked in retaliation. As far as some onlookers are concerned, the fact that any company has enough muscle to play this kind of hardball with artists online is a problem -- and a repudiation of the web's initial promise of openness.

Alison Wenham, chief executive of the Worldwide Independent Network, drew a provocative human rights analogy, telling the Times, "In the growth of the Internet, what was to be a utopian leveling of the playing field, a democratization for all, what is actually happening is a form of cultural apartheid." Wenham also blasted the deal in a separate interview with the paper, calling it "not a fair way to do business" and accusing YouTube of "[seeking] to injure and punish innocent labels and musicians — and their innocent fans — in order to pursue its ambitions."

In spite of the outcry, YouTube tells the NYT it's come to terms with "95 percent" of its label partners, which is corporate code for "this is happening whether you like it or not." As the Times points out, this type of scorched-earth war between distributors and content creators is a clear byproduct of consolidation -- and as anyone who's witnessed Amazon's willingness to fight with book publishers and film studios understands, we'll probably only be seeing more of these showdowns in the future.