back to article Lawyers claim ringtones are public performance

Internet watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation has hit out at a US music royalties collector, accusing it of making “outlandish copyright claims” about mobile phone ringtones. The American Society of Composer, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) filed a lawsuit against telecoms giant AT&T, in which it told a federal court that …


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  1. Mark 140

    curtail new technological innovation

    Sod off.

    Music in public (mobile phones on the bus anyone?) is annoying at best, but this isn't the way to stop it. And as for "curtail new technological innovation" - just sod off. I wouldn't describe anything that could evolve from a musical ringtone as a technological innovation.

  2. Steven 23


    Go cast you fishing rod elsewhere, money grabbing b@st@rds...

  3. g e


    This is so utterly bizarre I had to wonder if there's some international April Fool's day today in some country I wasn't aware of.

    These guys really are desperate aren't they.

    It's almost like some weird Guillermo del Toro monster has come to life that can suck the will to live out of people by simply being incredibly moronic at them. I guess in this case it'd have its eyes (and head and brain) right up its arse.

    By extension, then, doesn't this cover all non-radio music playback devices that don't exclusively use bud-style headphones (as dynamic headphones can be heard easily too)?

    I hope they lose and get stuck with defence costs.

    Actually I hope the crazy greedy bastards go bankrupt and catch something that makes you die horribly if I'm honest.

  4. Vitani

    All I can say is


  5. Feef Lovecraft

    Darth Vader said;

    "The more they tighten their grip the more will slip past thier grubby fingers.", really these people need to get a clue that thier business model is no more, move on to something new! Adapt, Enjoy, Survive.

  6. Scott 19

    Only in America

    Sorry my American friends but i had to say it.

    Pssssttt don't tell 'em but at the weekend in the bright sunshine me and a few of my mates where down the local waste ground drinking beer and listening to music using a mobile phone as the entertainment system and there where other people around that could hear it, shock horror.

  7. Tony Humphreys

    ... did I pay for then

    So am I legally entitled to even listen to the track! If now why do I even bother paying for it and just get a knock off copy - its easier anyway!

  8. g e


    P.S. And they wonder why they get no sympathy and all their rubbish is ripped off...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Greedy stupid people!

  10. Lars Silver badge

    Greedy bastards

    And I think they are shooting themselves in the foot, which is good of course.

  11. Fred 6

    lips to be subject to copyright

    Well, the can be used to public... music...public performance...

  12. The Indomitable Gall


    I don't think so.

    A ringtone is designed to be played in public ("mobile" phone). There's a hole in the legal coverage, and the sad fact is that these gaps are never plugged proactively -- it takes a lawsuit for them to be sorted.

    There will be a settlement, and it'll mean that royalties are divided differently.

    Hopefully it'll make music ringtones expensive enough that people opt for "bring bring" in future.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    Easy to see why the copyright protection groups are failing to win over hearts and minds.

    No wonder many people see them as an archaic self-interest group.

  14. Lottie

    Not ringtones,

    but if they could bust those fucknuggets who like to listen to music on their phones withou earbuds then that would be a better use of time.

  15. Oliver 7

    Who are these people?

    We have our own bunch in the UK, the PRS, who pursue hairdressers and workplace canteens, for playing the radio. There is an equivalent in Oz who are currently trying to ratchet up the fees for gyms and restaurants to play music by '000s of percent.

    When will consumers (and businesses for that matter) be granted the protection that they deserve and their fair use rights properly enshrined in law so that we can give two fingers to these arseholes. It's only another reflection of the tyranny imposed by copyright holders generally, in what amounts essentially to a monopoly position.

    Most people these days couldn't give a hoot about copyright law. We need a complete overhaul of the law to reflect the impact of digital technology upon content generally - hopefully an overhaul where the consumer isn't stitched up like a kipper.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. James 5
    Thumb Down

    Greed and American Copyright Lawyers are ...


    How can you call playing a few seconds of music a "public performance" !

    I assume that composers / writers of music intend their offerings to be heard complete from start to end as a performance.

    As soon as these people smell a dung heap of money they rush to get their share of it.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    extreme reactions work both ways...

    ... they can call all sorts of things 'copyrighted' but the danger is that we (the consumer) get "copyrighted fatigue"... i.e. everything we do and say is so copyrighted and restricted that we ignore it all.

    ... oh wait that is whats happening isn't it... (especially with the youf).

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Well, the upside of this is that it would hopefully spell the end of all those f***ing pathetic ringtones that pollute our atmosphere all the time from those people who have no sense or manners.

  20. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Thumb Down


    Now that I think of it, the Mike Batt case may mean that if you have no ringtone you may still have to pay a licence fee

  21. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    Damn right!

    If I have to listen to one more crap chart number being played through a tiny speaker that sounds like its stuck up the owner's arse I will end up in Broadmoor! The quicker we erradicate this modern menace the better! All power to the lawyers ( just this once! ).

    Seriously though, I suppose he's right but this is just another example of the "law behaving like an ass", driven by money grabbing scumbags. Even pond-slime are better than this lot, pond-slime is driven by pure instinct to survive, this lot are driven by greed-for-green!

  22. g e

    Mike Batt

    Wasn't the Mike Batt silence track shorter than the (forgot his name) silence track? Now I understand Mike Batt credited or attributed the original composer which was daft, but if he hadn't would the original composer be compelled to state which 15secs portion of silence had been reproduced from the original track?

    If he said it was from 0'23" to 0'38" I'd just say 'no it wans't you obviously can't identify your own composition in there' and move for acquittal :o)

  23. Anonymous Coward

    I hope they actually win

    Because the more insane the reach of copyright becomes, the more likely it is that 'the powers that be' will press reset, and we might get back something approaching a sensible system. Wasn't the original term 14 years?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Benny hill chase....

    [Caution : Sexist views ahead]

    I had an amusing vision of the copyright police hearing a ringtone and chasing the owner of the offending phone in a Benny Hill speeded up type of chase way. Works if the copyright police are female - not so good if they are blokes.

    Paris - well if that's not a sexist view - I don't know what is

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Clever idea

    If this case wins, then John Cage (who "composed" 4"33' of slience) will presumably deserve a royalty for every phone set to slient...

  26. Anonymous Coward

    So what?

    Public claim lawyers are public enemy.

  27. Steen Hive


    To the bizarre World of the IPTard. Their endgame is that the chip implanted in your bonce will debit your account every time you hear a tune in your head, make no mistake.

  28. Stef 1

    @ Oliver 7

    "It's only another reflection of the tyranny imposed by copyright holders generally, in what amounts essentially to a monopoly position."

    Copyright IS a monopoly right. It is its only function and reason for being.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with copyright as a legal principle, regardless of technological progress.

    The issue at hand is more how the right is exercised and, importantly, by whom (is the US claimant an exclusive licensee or assignee? Do they have cause of of action at all? If so, for *which* song titles?), than the right itself: for the right to be exercised (enforced), it must be infringed in the first place.

    Circumstances will always dictate whether there is infringement or not and, as with any other legal principle (with/without a technological angle), case law will be consulted -and made- for the case to be decided on its facts.

    Don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my works to be copied willy-nilly by all and sundry for whatever purpose, without at least an opportunity to decide what type of copying, by whom and on what terms (infringement exceptions, e.g. the US Fair Use principle etc , accepted of course). Couldn't do that without copyright, because there wouldn't be any rights in the works in the first place.

    I can see the legal merit of the argument (just!), but the lawsuit appears ill-addressed to me: in the context of "public performance", the infringer appears to be the mobile phone owner (and/or the venue in which the ringtone is played, as joint tortfeasor with the mobile phone owner), not the Telco.

    Mine's the one with the annotated Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 in the pocket.

  29. Andrew 99

    confused about public play

    does that mean DJ's need to pay money to play songs?

  30. Peter H. Coffin

    I can almost kind of sort of see this...

    Depending on, of course, that the targets of the suits are in fact the mobile operators that have been selling the ringtones, and that those operators have not been paying royalties for selling those ring tones to fools that don't know how to clip their own audio and tuck the results into their own phones. Given those things, then the downloading could well be seen as a public performance, simply to a device instead of a person.

  31. Justin

    The Copyright Laws arent the problem

    Copyright is all about preventing other people making money from your work. So you can read books and listen to music from the library, but the copyright law does not permit you to sell that item as if it were yours to sell. That is what Copyright Law is for.

    The "music industry" mafia has hijacked this perfectly good law. If they had their way, you would have to rent books from the library, you would have to pay to listen to every track the radio plays and you'd have to pay every time you play your own CDs.

    The net result is that customers are fed up AND SO ARE THE ARTISTS. Musicians are releasing their music for free (e.g. creative commons license) and making their money on performances ... which is how musicians made their money traditionally anyway. In the end, the fat cat mafia middlemen will lose out, but they obviously aren't going down without a fight. IMHO they have already lost because they've lost the confidence of the public.

    Long live the Internet!

  32. Sabine Miehlbradt

    Which leaves one question.

    Who gets the royalties for phones set to vibrate?

  33. Andre Carneiro
    Thumb Down


    ... that is all.

  34. Bug
    Thumb Up

    Keep it up

    The more ridiculous and outrageous the copyright infringement claims become the more people will question our unfit for purpose copyright system and the more likely it will be changed for the better.

  35. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Which leaves one question.

    Ann Summers, obviously.

  36. Ermie Mercer

    @Andrew 99

    "does that mean DJ's need to pay money to play songs?"

    In the US, the answer is "Yes." Also bars (pubs), restaurants, dance studios... any business where music is played to an audience.

  37. Mark Nelson

    Actually Orlowski

    The EFF are just doing their job. Now if ASCAP and RIAA and MPAA and all the other outfits would directly pay the creators a decent wage we might not have this problem.

  38. Balefire

    Almost agreed with them, up to a point

    If you buy a ringtone version of a track, then maybe they are right to claim royalties on the purchase price from the ringtone source (note that I am not including ones you make yourself, for your own mobile, from your previously purchased copy of a track). However, as they are claiming that it is a "public performance", they can go stuff their heads up their collective arse.

    Public performance? More like public fecking nuisance.

  39. indy_kid

    But wait...

    If we turn off our ringtones, won't we be infringing in the fantastic music composed by John Cage??? How can anyone ever forget his magnum opus 4' 33" ?

    Kill the lawyers and let's get on with our lives.

  40. Fed Up with BS.

    Wastes of skin

    ASCAP needs to be dismantled. In the mean time, the courts should impose huge fines on them for this frivolous lawsuit. Any lawyers wonder why much of the public has such a low opinion of them. Bottom feeders...

  41. Tony Paulazzo

    The right perspective

    or, the insane perspective... If, as someone up comment said, the companies are making money off these crappy ringtones, some of that profit should be going to the company looking after the artist.

    I've been, in my time, a digital pirate, am now a privacy pirate and if this landlubber insanity gets any worse, I may very well become a sea bound pirate.

    Pieces of eight!

  42. archie lukas

    Of course it does

    I whipped myself out of bed this morning and served a licence infringement notice on the Milkman for a public performance of "What a beautiful morning" which he dared to whistle out loud and thus woke me up.

    That'll teach the ba$t@rd !

  43. Inachu

    One day.

    Some day down the road a woman will have copyrighted her babys giggle and will use it as a ring tone and one day some mother will use that ring tone and be sued by the now grown up baby.

    Leave well enough alone people geesh!

    Everyone is trying to copyright everything.

    Soon my farts will be copyrighted.

  44. Terrance Brennan

    Its the phone companies

    AT&T charges their customers for the ringtones so why shouldn't the copyright holder get some benefit? At least they are going after the phone company who sold the ringtone and not the phone users who bought them. it's no different than if AT&T decided to sell CDs without paying royalties.

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