Sorry ASCAP, A Ringtone Is Not A Public Performance

from the nice-try-though dept

ASCAP and BMI have been pushing all sorts of ridiculous claims over the past few months, trying to squeeze extra money out of pretty much everything, rather than actually doing right by those they represent and helping them adapt new business models based on giving people a reason to buy. Beyond claiming that Congress should make sure their royalties never decrease, they've also been saying they deserve money for things like YouTube embeds (even though YouTube already pays them for that same traffic) and the 30 second previews on iTunes and other music stores. However, the most ridiculous of all was trying to claim that ringtones are a public performance, and thus mobile phone providers need to pay ASCAP/BMI. The thing is, ASCAP and BMI already get paid for ringtone purchases -- but this was an attempt to get a second payment on top of that for the fact that people might hear the ringtones.

Thankfully (as a whole bunch of you have sent in), a judge wasted little time totally rejecting that reasoning. The court pointed out that the Copyright Act is pretty clear that there's no royalty needed for any sort of "performance" that isn't done for commercial advantage and "customers do not play ringtones with any expectation of profit." It's a pretty complete rejection of an obvious stretch by ASCAP.

We might hope that ASCAP will take this and begin to recognize that the best way to serve songwriters is helping them embrace new business models, but we expect that instead they'll keep looking to squeeze more money and double dip from other providers... while continuing to pay industry insiders to smear those who want to protect consumer rights.
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Filed Under: copyright, double dipping, public performance, ringtones, songwriters
Companies: ascap, bmi, eff


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  1. icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), 16 Oct 2009 @ 2:01am

    A case of double billing?

    You already pay through the nose for a ringtone (no I do not think that a 3 euro a week subscription plan for 3 ringtones is cheap, when the full song is 0.99 in Itunes)
    So why do we have to pay again in order to have your phone go off?!

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