Calling Your Phone Number May Break Copyright Law

from the brilliant dept

Found this one one Slashdot, and I usually avoid posting stuff that shows up there first, but this one is too good. Some Australians have copyrighted 100,000,000,000 telephone tone sequences to show just how silly copyright law is. Now they want companies to pay them license fees. They’re saying that if companies really “believe” in copyright law, then obviously they should pay. They have a site set up where you can check your phone number to see if they’ve got the copyright on it (it even pops up the line music for you to play along with if you wanted to do such a thing). I checked. They’ve got all my phone numbers. Call me at your own risk.

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Comments on “Calling Your Phone Number May Break Copyright Law”

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ThwartedEfforts (user link) says:

of course they have your number

If you have a US number, and they copyrighted the entire series from all zeros to 100,000,000,000, then they have every possible US telephone number. A large portion of those numbers can’t be real numbers because of the way the number space is divided, but if they copyrighted the entire space, they have a better case for this not being a friviously copyrighting (only going after certain commonly used items).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: of course they have your number

of course, if you’d been paying attention, the whole point is that they haven’t copyrighted the phone numbers. they copyrighted the DTMF sounds that the telephone system uses to encode your phone number… the fact that each “song” they copyrighted happens to match up to a particular phone number is coincidental (but still under copyright protection, which i think is exactly the point they’re trying to make).

Ed says:


Things might be different today, but at least a few years ago, there still had to be an element of creativity, not just effort (aka “sweat of the brow”), to make something copyrightable. For this reason, telephone white pages were not eligible for copyright protection, and any other exhaustive enumeration of letters, numbers, tones, etc. should likewise not be copyrightable. I’m not sure how to reconcile that in cases where a “song” might be very short (think of the 4-note Intel jingle), but copyrighting all 4-note songs doesn’t make sense.

Phillip says:

Re: Telephone white pages

Well the telephone white pages in the UK are copyright our telephone monopoly. Nobody else is allowed to have any directory service which is why they charge us 50p (75c) per enquiry, or it may be less now. We also have to pay for post code information, and pretty much every thing else (paid for by us the taxpayer?) because of ‘copyright’. Sad huh?


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