Feeds

Lawyers claim ringtones are public performance

EFF hits out at 'outlandish copyright claims'

The Power of One Infographic

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 ringtones fell under the public perfomance Copyright Act.

ASCAP collects royalties and licences on behalf of 350,000 members in the US.

In effect, the organisation is gunning for additional payments from mobile firms, and if they don’t cough up the royalties ASCAP could claim copyright infringement against mobile users, according to the EFF.

The lobby group responded by filing an amicus brief* for the case earlier this week in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The brief, which was also joined by the Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge, urged the federal court to reject what the EFF described as “bogus copyright claims… that could raise costs for consumers, jeopardise consumer rights, and curtail new technological innovation”.

Copyright law exempts performance "without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage”, which should include the use of mobile ringtones in a public place, asserted the EFF. "This is an outlandish argument from ASCAP," said EFF senior intellectual property attorney Fred von Lohmann.

"Are the millions of people who have bought ringtones breaking the law if they forget to silence their phones in a restaurant? Under this reasoning from ASCAP, it would be a copyright violation for you to play your car radio with the window down!"

ASCAP insisted it wouldn’t pursue individuals who it perceived to be breaking copyright law by airing music via their ringtones in public, but said it would bring royalty claims against phone service providers in the US.

"Because it is legal for consumers to play music in public, it's also legal for my mobile phone carrier to sell me a ringtone and a phone to do it. Otherwise it would be illegal to sell all kinds of technologies that help us enjoy our fair use, first sale, and other copyright privileges," argued von Lohmann.

But ASCAP, which filed a document against AT&T’s request for a summary judgment in the case early last month, disagrees with that stance, claiming that performances can still violate copyright even if no commercial gain is apparent, such as with ringtones.

The case continues. ®

*A document submitted to a court by someone who is not directly related to the case under consideration.

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.