ASCAP sues AT&T seeking royalties on ringtones heard in public

ASCAP sues AT&T seeking royalties on ringtones heard in public
ASCAP, the group that collects royalties for singers, songwriters and performers, has filed suit against AT&T claiming that the carrier should pay a royalty each time a ringtone, composed or performed by one of its' 350,000 members, is heard in public. The group says that a ringtone is a public performance.

Not so fast says the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF claims that a ringtone heard in a restaurant "without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage," is exempt from copyright law. The EFF goes on to complain that a court ruling in favor of ASCAP could raise consumer's costs and step over their rights. Filing a Friend of the Court brief, the group was joined by the Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge.

ASCAP says that they are not interested in getting paid from individual consumers, but instead, they want carriers like AT&T to pay for the ring tones claiming there is an infringement even with no commercial gain. AT&T and other carriers already pay royalties for the sale of the ringtone to a cellphone owner. It is the ringtone's usage that is at issue here and AT&T has requested a summary judgement in its favor. The performer's group has opposed that motion.

source: InfoWorld via MobileBurn

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11 Comments

1. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

I've always wondered why people have to pay for ringtones. It's like being charged to adveritse something because advertising is basically what we are doing. And I would have thought that the situation would have been the other way around. AT&T and other carriers should charge the music companies.

2. vzw fanman

Posts: 1977; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

what about the music videos? fergie's glamorous shows the env, along with clothes off by cupids chokehold, and you got me by one block radius...isn't it illegal to show the verizon logo upclose? we advertise everyday, it's what makes the world go round. we bring a laptop to mcdonalds, it says dell. we drive a car, it says BMW. we have sneakers, it says nike. unless you wear dress shirts all the time which people do, most shirts advertise too. like a little eagle, seagull or moose :-).

4. Kiltlifter

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

The claim ASCAP is attempting to make (and poorly at best) is that AT&T is (by indirect contribution) playing music at a public venue without appropriation (or some other crappy stupid and wasted legal jargon) for the intent of private gain. Like I am going ot hear your ringtone on your phone at the gym and be like, "WOW YOUR AT&T PHONE PLAYED A SONG AND I TOTALLY WANT TO BUY ANOTHER AT&T PHONE NOW!!!!! OMG AT&T ARE GENIUS OF EXPLOITING CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS BY ALLOWING PEOPLE TO BUY SONGS AND USE THEM AS TONES!!!" So if i purchased a CD, ripped the song to my computer and put it on my phone, then used it as a ringtone ASCAP could come after me personally each time my phone rings in public. F*** YOU ASCAP! Eat SH!T and DIE (gatos... sorry had to pull off the quote from Wing Command IV).

6. legionsreturn unregistered

Wow, that was an obscure reference. I get it but most under 30 wont.

9. VSS_55

Posts: 43; Member since: Jul 05, 2009

Does 26 count? I had to register just for the wing commander refrence.... i used to play that game religiously.... i dont think that term originally came from it though... As far as the article its absurd. someone suing ATT for customers playing there ringtones?!? this is a perfect exapmple of everything wrong with this country. Even from a former VZW emp... go ATT have your lawyers show these idiots whos boss!

3. Kiltlifter

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

I hate crap like this... so by these sorts of claims, ASCAP should sue Best Buy for installing loud stereo equipment into peoples cars becuase the music can be heard outside of the car at a public venue (the street and parking lots of public places). This is crap... the DoJ should countersue ASCAP for wasting time, money, and human productivity during an economic recession and AT&T, VZW, Sprint, and T-Mo should all support eachother on this. "We paid you royalty fees, but now you want us to pay more fees and everytime a phone rings or receives a text message. So approximately 8 billion times a day we would have to pay a roalty fee?" A$$HOLE$! Go to hell and die...

5. artz1986

Posts: 453; Member since: Mar 11, 2009

This is why I burn cd's..and why I get free ringtones via Zedge.net and similar sites, because of BIG CORP DUDE's such as ASCAP trying to drain and scrape more and more money from consumers in any way they can. I mean, I know the music industry is a business, and artists do need to make a living, but I doubt musicians care that much whether a snippet of their song is being heard in public or not. [btw support your fav band, by their cd =D]

10. TheCellDepotVZW

Posts: 26; Member since: Dec 26, 2008

I completely agree... I too make my own ringtones mainly cause I dont want to spend $50 for all of the ringtones that are on my phone. I would think that having a 30 second clip to their song would actually help them out... I have heard a ringtone before and then thought to my self, I want that song and either go buy the CD or DL it from somewhere like ITunes or VCast Music With Rhapsody, and in turn it is actually making Apple, VZW or whoever else even more money, cause the person whos ringtone you heard most likely bought that ringtone and then you go and spend money and buy the song... See more money and all without draining the pockets of the people who are actually making all of these people money especally the ASCAP. Without us buying anything do begin with they would not have the money they do. Its all BS and should be stopped. As a VZW Employee I am all for AT&T on this one!!!

7. trentsinmypants

Posts: 324; Member since: Jan 29, 2009

Im a music pirate....and its just for this reason alone. I stopped buying CDs mainly due to the music corp being so damn greedy. If I like a band and want to support their music, i will spend money on their concerts. (im a HUGE concert nut; seriously. I go to 2-3 a month, sometimes more) But another reason why I pirate music is to sample the album before I buy. Most of the time I end up deleting the mp3s from my comp due to the album sucking big time. There are a few bands that I fully support and buy anything that gets released (ie. nine inch nails, depeche mode, U2, etc. Yet, U2's last album has me questioning if I will buy another album of theirs)

8. legionsreturn unregistered

eh, thats cool but I prefer to support local or underground artists that actually need the money to survive. In this way good music(or what I call good music, such as TN9NE) is reinforced in the economy. Im sure u2 is doing just fine.

11. jskrenes

Posts: 209; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

How in the world would you actually figure this out? You would have to monitor not only what ringtones were purchased, but what ones were played. So ATT (and other carriers, I'm sure VZW, Sprint, TMob, and the rest are next) would have to build a software program for their phones, across all operating systems, which would cost money, eat up network spectrum to transmit the data, which costs money, and then on top of that they would have to pay more royalties at the end of the day. And ASCAP has the audacity to say they're not charging customers. Where do you think the money comes from? I guarantee the shareholders aren't going to just take it on the chin, the customers will pay in higher ringtone purchase rates, surcharges, etc. Saying the customer won't pay is like saying when you pirate music, you're just stealing from the big record companies, not the artists.

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