Judge: No More Royalties for Ringtones!
By Kevin Parrish, published on October 15, 2009
" Looks like carriers won't need to pay royalties every time your cell phone plays a ringtone.
A federal court has ruled against the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in the ringtone argument, stating that cell phone providers do not have to pay royalties for each time a ringtone is used. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said that playing the ringtones aloud in public areas does not infringe on the content owners' copyrights, as they are not true performances.
According to Ars Technica, ASCAP sued certain carriers earlier this year, forcing them to pay royalties every time a customer's ringtone is played. However the judge dismissed that idea in her ruling, explaining that carriers have no way to control when a ringtone is being played, and earns no revenue when it happens. Customers also decide when and where their phones can ring, and when the phone is turned on or off, not the carrier.
Judge Cote also added that the carrier is responsible for the transmission of the song to the phone, and doesn't count as a performance. She defined "performance" as working publicly in a space where "a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of its social acquaintances is gathered."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that the ruling should also protect people who play the radio on the beach or sing "Happy Birthday" to children in a public park."The ruling is an important victory for consumers, making it clear that playing music in public, when done without any commercial purpose, does not infringe copyright," the organization said. "