Thursday, October 15, 2009

Judge: Cellphone ringtones are NOT Concerts.

Recently, a federal judge dismissed a music industry dispute regarding cell phone's ringtone playback. The argument (made by ASCAP) was that, "copyright infringement starts happening when a cell phone's ringtone begins playing." The mobile phone in ASCAP's view (in this particular situation) was that it functioned as a portable concert hall since others can hear the song. Overall, this means that millions of mobile phone users are copyright law violators anytime anyone calls them. ASCAP in this contention was attempting to bring in even more royalties from music fans. Furthermore, ASCAP collects royalty payments for public performances of songs from venues as divergent as a summer camp and a stadium. Most importantly, ASCAP was in a legal long shot, copyright chaos might have ensued had the royalty-collecting group actually prevailed. In my opinion, agencies are looking to squeeze out as much money as they can before music becomes a "free" universal platform. The ruling claimed that ASCAP did not show any infringement of its members' rights by the playing of ringtones in the public from Verizon's customer's telephones. From a marketing standpoint, ringtones are not damaging an artist's exposure. Ringtones purpose is similar to that of on demand Internet streaming service which is to expand music enthusiasts libraries of songs. In conclusion, ringtone playback that can be heard by other people is more of a benefit than disadvantage to the music industry. Keep in mind groups like ASCAP have a mandate to get their members as much revenue as they can, and you have a recipe for lawsuits whenever someone tries to do something new with digital raw material.

-Ryan Dolan

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