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Ringtones cost music industry $1m a day

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Mobile phone users could be costing the record industry up to a $1 million a day according to a new report.

UK-based Internet monitoring company, Envisional, claims that those annoying mobile phone ringtones that are downloaded from Web sites and rip off popular tunes could constitute a breach of copyright.

Envisional claims that while most sites charge users for downloading each tune few cough up royalties. And since record companies are entitled to 7.5 cents for every tune downloaded, Envisional claims that the dosh soon adds up.

How it reaches the magic number of $1 million a day is anyone's guess, though, since by its own admission reliable figures are hard to find.

"It's all a bit finger in the air," admitted a spokesman for Envisional, "it is a bit of a guestimate."

If the exact financial scale of the problem is a little tricky to assess, so too is the legal position.

Intellectual Property lawyer, Clare Griffiths, said that the whole issue is very complex - both for consumers and distributors since both can be in breach of the law.

"Copyright in the music will be infringed by taking a 'substantial part' of a musical work," she said, even if it just a small part of a song.

The legal waters are further muddied since the moral rights of the songwriter may also be infringed by the fact that a melody is turned into a ringtone which may be seen as damaging the integrity of the music.

Said Griffiths: "The application of the existing law to these new scenarios can also throw up interesting debates: for example, is the song being broadcast/performed when the phone rings, especially in a public place, further infringing the rights of the copyright owner?"

Confused? Well, so are we. ®

This just in from reader, Colin McDonald, who cannot believe his ears

"Bah, this is just a distraction from the desperate need for a campaign to punish pillocks who f&*k off for 2 hour lunches, leaving their mobile on their desk to shriek out the first 2 bars of Winne the F&*king Pooh at full volume over and over and over and over and over and.... Tone rage is ripe for being the next buzzword fad, right?"

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