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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    TriZz, 15 Nov 2006 @ 3:19pm


    This is absolute bullshit! BULLSHIT!! If there wasn't a better definition of fair use than a ringtone than I don't know what is!!

    A ringtone is not using the song in it's entirety.
    A ringtone will not generate profit for the user.

    WTF?! Pay for a ringtone? Please. this.is.bullshit

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown for basic formatting. (HTML is not supported.)
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.