Ringtone Startup Courts MP3.com-style Legal Battle

from the byo-tunes dept

The ringtone market has been under pressure for some time, caused mainly by content providers’ greed, but also by the growing number of ways for users to make their own ringtones from digital music files. A Silicon Valley startup called Phonezoo is targeting this market in a somewhat interesting way: users can submit their own ringtones for others to download for free, but if the ringtone is of a copyrighted song, users must upload a digital version of the song to “prove” they own it. Once you do this, Phonezoo apparently takes that upload and extracts the relevant snippet, or lets users edit it before downloading. It’s a cool idea, and it’s great to see free ringtones — however it seems awfully unlikely that the recording industry will agree. Phonezoo’s model sounds pretty similar to that of MP3.com’s My.MP3.com service of several years ago, which gave users access to online copies of music once they’d inserted a copy of a CD in their computer to verify they actually owned it. The service, of course, got shut down by the record labels in 2000, and although many people thought MP3.com had plenty of grounds to appeal, the legal system made it essentially impossible for them to do so. Phonezoo’s raised money from a group of angel investors including well-known VC Tim Draper, and is now looking to raise a few million dollars more — but they’re probably going to need much more than that to battle the record labels. Despite the weakness of the MP3.com decision, it looks like Phonezoo is setting themselves up for an uphill battle, After all, it’s really difficult to see how uploading a ripped or downloaded version of a song actually proves a user legitimately bought it. Still, this doesn’t validate the recording industry’s approach to the ringtone market, which is based, essentially, on ripping people off and using lawsuits to protect the market. Call us crazy, but combining sales of recorded music with ringtones and other types of content so they offer consumers better value is just one idea they could use in an attempt to grow, rather than just try to maintain, their sales.


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Comments on “Ringtone Startup Courts MP3.com-style Legal Battle”

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7 Comments
Chronno S. Trigger says:

Let me get this strait

They offer a site that they can create there own ring tones from files they have on there computer. Then they can share these ring tones with others. If they want to make a ring tone out of a song they have to prove that they own it and then they can make it. I don’t see where the violation is. there not sharing the whole song there just getting snippets. If this douse tern out to be a problem than iTunes better watch out for having 30sec of preview music for free

jiMMy says:

Well, in order for phonezoo to do this they must follow the DMCA act. As long as artist/music publishers are able to get their material removed from PhoneZoo very easily, PhoneZoo is legal. I imagine they would comply within 72 hours. http://www.brinked.com is another great example of a ringtone website, where all ringtones are user generated (gray area like youtube) and completely free

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