BMI Sues T-Mobile, Claims It Needs To Pay Up Over Ringback Tones

from the are-ringbacks-a-public-performance? dept

I'm still in the camp of folks who doesn't quite understand "ringback tones" -- the ugly stepchild of ringtones, where it's not what music your phone plays, but what music a caller hears when they call you and are waiting for you to pick up. While ringbacks have been a big deal in Asia, they're still a relatively small market in the US. But, that's not going to stop collections societies from demanding cash, of course. mike allen alerts us to the news that BMI has sued T-Mobile over its ringback tones. Of course, here's the thing: a court has already established that ringtones are not performances, so are ringback tones performances? Or, of course, T-Mobile could just ban the use of any BMI songs as ringbacks, and then see how those artists feel about how BMI is "protecting" their interests...

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  1. icon
    Lachlan Hunt (profile), 10 Jan 2010 @ 3:02pm

    "On Hold" Music

    This is very different from a ringtone. With a ringtone, the owner of the phone owns a copy of the track being played on their device, to them, and maybe a few people who happen to be in earshot of the phone.

    I've not experienced ringback tones before, and until reading this article I had never heard of them. But the idea seems like it has more in common with on-hold music that many companies play when they put you on hold or when you're in a call centre queue. The only difference seems to be that this music is playing to the caller while the phone is ringing, rather than after the call has been answered, and it's being played by the telco, rather than the callee.

    I'm fairly sure the companies that do that have to licence the music for use on-hold, at least in Australia (I'm not sure about the US rules, but I'd assume they're similar). But assuming that in the US companies do have to licence it then, then surely those rules would apply to this too.

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