Thursday, October 15, 2009

Copyrights & Music:Does a Cell Phone Ringing in Public Violate Copyright Law?

In an important ruling for the millions of cell phone users whose ringtones play in public - and for the cell phone companies that provide the ring tones - a federal court in New York just ruled that merely playing the ring tone in public for personal (not commercial) purposes is not a "public performance" that would trigger a royalty payment to the copyright owner of the song the ring tone is based on. One of the keys to the decision was that it is limited to personal uses of ringtones "without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage". Thus to the extent someone might be interested in playing ringtones in public for commercial purposes - let's say a "Battle of the Ringtones" contest - this ruling would not apply. Beyond that, one of the interesting tidbits that came out of the court ruling is confirmation of the amount of money the cell phone companies pay in royalties for reproducing the song to begin with: 24 cents. Here is a summary of the court opinion and for those who are really ambitious, here is a copy of the court opinion itself.

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