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The fake “public ringtones” controversy July 7, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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The paranoid online people need to shut up until they have an issue to speak about intelligently.

ASCAP (the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated, and other groups representing songwriters have sued ATT, Verizon, and other mobile-phone companies over what is claimed to be owed song royalties. It seems that the mobile-phone companies interpreted recent court ruling about digital downloads as not being public performances of music. So they stopped paying royalties to use and sell the songs as ringtones. More profit for them.

The composers’ groups have sued the mobile-phone companies to resume paying. The argument is that ringtones are not for private use only and should be covered by copyright laws. These groups are not suing and have said they have no plans to sue individual consumers, unlike the RIAA and the record companies.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, in their self-appointed role as protector of all things in cyberspace, hower, have stepped in and filed a brief saying that ASCAP and the other ought to be denied because it sets a precedent where they could sue individual consumers in the future. My opinion is that EFF ought to have talked to ASCAP, BMI, and the others and gotten a pledge or agreement that they would not do so. Instead they are out there grandstanding in an issue that does not involve the consumers they protect. They ought to be lambasting the phone companies for not paying royalties, yet also not lowering their prices for ringtones when the costs obviously went down. The people at EFF are downright off base here in way more ways than one.

The phone companies made $9 billion in worldwide ringtone sales, yet are too cheap to pay the composers of those songs and too greedy to give the consumers a break. EFF is wrong for fully supporting this greediness.

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Comments»

1. Sinbad - July 7, 2009

Heh. Got to stop the rot somewhere. Next thing you know BMI and ASCAP will be wanting royalties if people start humming or whistling one of *their* tunes. 🙂

2. fetzthechemist - July 7, 2009

Eff ought to have ended up on the side of ASCAP and BMI, getting them to agree to limits, and going against the phone companies. If you are protecting the consumers you do not aid the predators who are gouging people for every nickel and dime they can get away with.

Not paying the composers of that music shows the greed. I never ever will use one anyway because a ringtones must only cost a few hundredths of a penny to produce and they charge dollars per each – or give you a “deal” and only charge a thousand times their cost.

3. The Chemist - July 8, 2009

EFF is trying to avoid the extension of a precedent to other parts of copyright law that would hurt consumers or listeners in the long run. The companies can charge whatever they wish, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them. They could charge $100 a ringtone, and there are no laws that would or could stop that. Ultimately the market sets the price and it’s only a matter of time before someone offers a lower price and then other providers follow suit. Asking the EFF to bring about a deal that concedes to the idea that every playing of audio in public constitutes a “performance”, just because the ringtone people are engaging in typical short-term business practices, is failing to see the more pressing long-term issues at the heart of the matter.

4. fetzthechemist - July 8, 2009

The EFF has taken a side, one that lumps all use of the songs together. This seems a blind sticking to policy that anything that limits free use of everything is to be opposed. But to defend consumers use by saying the use by the phone companies is valid is legally and ethically wrong. The phone companies sell versions of the sings and make huge amounts of money. They ignor that selling a copy of a song is commerce based on that song. You do not buy a ringtone of “Come Together” because that combination of notes just happens and caught your ear. You buy it because you liked the Beatles song by Lennon and McCartney. The phone companies ignor that fact and sell you a ringtone as if it was a product totally of their own making.

All the people who talk about free-market theory ruling prices are pretty clueless. The various companies, phone, ISP, whatever, have unwritten market-controlling strategies that fix prices within certain ranges. CDs in music never got cheaper over twenty=plus years. Cell phone service and ISP service is still ridiculously high, “bargain” are expensive versions that cost less.

The EFF ought to have either sat on the sidelines in this fight between non-consumers or taken a more active role in defining an acceptable boundary of “use”. Instead they pick one side and will sink or swim with that side’s legal strategy.


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