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Ring Tones Will Save the Music Industry 271

Posted by timothy
from the likely-story dept.
tabdelgawad writes "Well, not quite, but according to Jay A. Samit, senior vice president for new media at music label EMI Group PLC, quoted in this Washington Post article, "This is huge. This is the largest growth area for music companies and our artists". The article goes on to prove two facts we already know: that the music industry is greedy (already asking for a bigger slice of this pie!) and that the porn industry is a prime innovator in marketing and technology :-)"
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Ring Tones Will Save the Music Industry

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  • by reezle (239894) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @08:51PM (#4958548) Homepage
    But will you have to pay royalties if your phone rings in a crowd, and others hear it?

    Going off in a theatre is bad enough, but just imagine if it rang in a taxi-cab!
    • This is a huge new opening of the analog hole. The real money for the RIAA will be selling federally mandated DRM helmets:)
    • Well .. in the UK (Score:5, Interesting)

      by brightertimes (633671) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:48PM (#4958707)
      I live in the UK where cellphones are very big, it's pretty much reached mass penetration now. Everyage group has mobile phones, even my grandmother has! In the UK a couple of years back pre-pay phones took off big style and there was a very big price war with handsets going for as little as $45 with no contract. Now.. the companies are finding it very difficult due to the amount of phones that have been sold people are not as keen to upgrade them as they would like. Except for the geek/uber stylish crowd everyone is pretty happy with their handsets. Now, because the lack of handsets being sold the mobile phone companies are in trouble due to: Paying ££££ billions to the uk goverment so they can have the spectrum for 3g phones. Vast market penetration of mobile phones already and a majority are not willing to upgrade Lot of people on pre-pay and using phones for "emergency use only", operators find it hard to break even. So...... all the networks are betting their bottom line on things like ring tones, downloadable screensavers (!!), logo graphics and picture messaging. Already ringtones are the such like have boosted profits in the shorterm, but I think picture messaging will (hopefully) be the saviour ... or job cuts abound :)
    • Aren't there more people in a theatre than in a cab, in general?

      Or do you ride around in those clown cabs frequently?
      • " Aren't there more people in a theatre than in a cab, in general? Or do you ride around in those clown cabs frequently?"

        That cabs thing was a reference to a recent article where the music industry was harassing taxi companies for playing music in the taxi without paying royalties.

    • But will you have to pay royalties if your phone rings in a crowd, and others hear it?

      That would be a good thing. I'd love to see the idiots in movie theaters who don't put ther phones on silent/vibra mode pay big $$$ for spoiling my movie ;-)
  • Humiliating (Score:5, Funny)

    by anaesthetica (596507) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @08:52PM (#4958554) Homepage Journal

    What worse way to become musically recognized:

    "I take good songs, and translate them into annoying beeps. I'm proud of that and would like to publicly take credit for it."

    Then again, with the general level of quality that the music industry expects of it new up-and-coming groups, he just may be able to get that fat record deal he's always been hoping for.

  • until (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @08:53PM (#4958557)
    ring tones become p2p ware and the music industry use this as a new excuse to close down p2p.
    • by cybercomm (557435)
      There are a lot of rogue WAP servers out there, and if you know where to go you can download the tones for free, the only thing you have to pay for is airtime, which would be ~30sec-1min (or you can download them to your PC and then PC-Link it to the phone). Also Nokia introduced a MIDI phone about 6 months ago, some of my friends have it and have set up their own WAP servers with MIDI from which they uploaded the song (apparently the PC link to that phone doesent seem to work). But i must admit that the sound is cool! (Ever seen heads turn as someone's phone starts ringing Zelda theme in full MIDI at the top of its digital lungs?)

      Here is the link to ONE of the MIDI phones [nokia.com].
    • The first GSM mobile phone I ever owned (back in 1999), a Nokia 3210, had a ring tone composer which I could use to send ring tones I composed to my friends who had compatible phones. Newer 3xxx (e.g. 3310/3350, etc.) models even have the ability to resend tones that have been received. Heck, if this isn't (an admittedly primitive) P2P network built on top of GSM, I don't know what one is. With SMS chat services, getting the tones you want is not too difficult.

      But then again, it seems that the United States is somewhat backwards when it comes to cellular telephony for some reason. We've been doing this in the Philippines for at least five years almost.

      Odd thing for a third world country like us to have market penetration rates for cellular phones approaching that of the wealthiest European nations. Heck, I see street vendors here who have GSM mobiles!

  • by bdesham (533897) <bdesham AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @08:55PM (#4958562) Journal
    Then:
    (cell phone rings with boring tone)
    Everyone else in the room: Turn your f*cking phone off!
    Now:
    (cell phone rings with the #1 song on the charts)
    Everyone else in the room: Turn your f*cking phone off!
    • You missed something:

      Then:

      (cell phone rings, owner picks up immediately)
      Everyone else in the room isn't bothered.

      Now:

      (cell phone rings with irritating tune, owner leaves it on until it's finished playing so everyone know what great taste in music he/she has)
      Everyone else in the room: Must....KILL! KILL! KILL!!!..
  • by Lysol (11150) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @08:57PM (#4958571)
    My brother lives in Tokyo and actually made some ring tones for Yamaha over there early this year. I thought it was weird cuz it seemed like such a big deal over there. Besides their phones being about 5-10 years ahead of ours (for real), they had a completely different attitude about it. They threw a huge party for the release there. He's a dj too, so they supported him spinning and had their ads and stuff all over - I guess kinda like a record release almost.

    But it seems tho that since we're so behind here that that won't materialize like it has overseas - and not just Japan, but in a lot of other wireless countries. I dunno, our attitude and recording industry cartel just seems different here; hard to say what will happen..
    • because in Japan a ringtone isn't annoying beeps. It's frickin' mp3 quality.
      I don't know about you, but when I find new cool techno music I throw a party.
      • yah, their stuff there rocks. not just the music tho, the graphics. and not just the phones either but so much other stuff.

        after my brother showed me the video they shot, i thought Yamaha throwing a party like that was pretty cool. looked just like any other club goin off. sux to be us with the annoying nokia standard ringer i guess..
    • I have a Danger Hiptop [danger.com] / T-Mobile [tmobile.com] Sidekick [dangerinfo.com] and I don't think it's 5 years behind Japanese phones. It has a real keyboard, which is not as important in Japan, but is important here if you actually want to do e-mail or web searches or IM. Yes, it can do SMS if you can find one of the other 3 people in the US who can use it, but it also does AOL IM and thus you can talk to just about anybody. It's also $40/mo for unlimited data, plus more phone minutes that I can use (though if you yammer you will probably want to upgrade to the $60 plan).

      Drawbacks: grayscale screen instead of color. Although it's done in Java, the SDK is not open -- blame Deutchse Telekom, though, not the US industry, for that one.

      I think the device fares quite well compared to Japan's Java-enabled color phones, because it has a real keyboard and real applications that are useful. If I want to play Tetris in color, I'd get a game boy.

      And yes, it has Beatnik 12-voice polyphonic ringtones that sound great.

      • As much as all the Europeans and Japanphiles would love to think us behind in some way, we're not. Japanese and European cell phone customers have certain features because there's a demand. That's it. It's not like the technology to create it isn't here. Hell, we invented the damn technology.
        • Oh, admit it, you're lagging behind in all kinds of useless technologies! If you were with the times, you could be transmitting the smell of your flatulence over the airways to your also-up-to-date cellphone-weilding buddy!

          Or you could be using a tiny joystick to paint tiny little pictures on your tiny little phone to send to some tiny little friend. Isn't that USEFUL?!
  • Expect a phone call from the RIAA When you answer it, you get threatened with a DCMA lawsuit for infringing the intellectual property of a long dead classical composer.
  • And then... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:01PM (#4958581) Journal
    ... some smartass oriental company will introduce a cell phone where the owner can either key-in his own ring-tone, or download via USB or whatnot a MP-3 to be used as such.

    Of course, you can expect the RIAA to try to have it outlawed...

    • Re:And then... (Score:2, Informative)

      by mijok (603178)
      Actually, that's already possible. Many European operators have webpages for phone subscribers where they can compose their own tunes and then send them to their phones.
    • Re:And then... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by el_flynn (1279)
      This is probably true in most asian as well as european countries: the cellphone market is dominated by a few major players: Nokia, Motorola, Siemens to name a few. Most of the phones released in the last two or three years already have the capability you're talking about. And yes, the ring-tone business is definitely big bucks in these parts of the woods.

      For example, this site [ringtonesearch.com] offers downloadable ringtones as well as screen savers and a bunch of other stuff. And this site [freeservers.com] provides "Free ringtones for Alcatel, Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sanyo, Siemens and Sony mobile phones".

    • When the Nokia phones came out a few years ago, it really irked me that I could pick one of 35 annoying ringtones, but I couldn't key in my own. I don't want my ringtone to be five minutes of symphonies or even "Mini-Songs"* - I just want a couple of short notes that don't sound identical to the phones of the nearest five other people. It doesn't require much memory for an input program (probably less than a program to download ringtones), and no more to store the tune than any of the existing ones. A web-based system that lets you give them your ringtones to send your phone for a small fee is just silly; it's still a closed interface (either deliberately or just cluelessly.)


      * oh, come on, you remember Demolition Man. All restaurant jingles are for Taco Bell...

  • Its sad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anonymous coword (615639) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:03PM (#4958589) Homepage Journal
    Im fine with the 35 ring tones that came with my Nokia 3310 Phone, and tone codes are everywhere on the internet, but there are all the stupid losers who phone £1.50/minute 0906 numbers to get a bastardised beeping version of the latest chart hit.

    With Processing power on Mobile Phones getting better, it would make sense to be able to play REAL Sound files. A 20-30 second sound mp3 file could easily fit on a phone, and it could be worth the price of around £2 per mini song, but not a couple of silly beeps

    Landline phones are starting to get more spiced up, the singing lizard phone for example. But they are FREAKING PHONES after all, and they are supposed to go RING RING, not beep beep beep beep beep beep beep, leave that to Ellen Fiess!
    • already does on a sony cmd-j70 .. recordable voice ring .. you could even record a song to it. plays at very low quality.. but its alright.
  • by limekiller4 (451497) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:04PM (#4958591) Homepage
    From the article [washingtonpost.com]:
    Approximately 50 percent of Europeans under the age of 30 have downloaded ring tones, according to Stonefield, who believes the U.S. market is ripe for similar growth. "There is no way that kind of distribution is going to be held back; it is a real social trend," he said.

    Yes, it is a social trend, but not a U.S. one.

    Most of the fads we see tend to have some obvious -- if obnoxious -- logic to it. Macarena? Catchy and annoying as all get-out. Pokemon? Competition, community, kids running around saying dumb things (which is precisely what kids are supposed to do). Micro RC cars? Cute and disturbingly entertaining to everyone but our employers and cats. I could go on for quite some time but because I wish to annoy you, the gracious reader, as little as possible, I'll get right to the point.

    What do frickin' ringtones offer?

    "Oh, hey! Cool, Rock Me Amadaeus as a ringtone! Sweet! ... Hm. Hey, so anyway, did you watch Friends last night?..."

    This is not a U.S. phenomenon and it won't ever be a U.S. phenominon. I'm not trying to imply that the United States is somehow more sophisticated, I'm suggesting that Americans tend to view cellphones ringing about as enjoyable as listening to a car alarm going off. And not because they're boring, monotone and tedious, either. We dislike the phone because it represents an interruption, rendered jarringly, like an audial ICQ popup (though I'm told they don't do that anymore).

    Again, from the article:
    "This is huge," said Jay A. Samit, senior vice president for new media at music label EMI Group PLC. "This is the largest growth area for music companies and our artists."

    This is a sign that companies are literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, not the bleeding edge of the Next Great Thing.
    • It's 10000% the cool factor. Why have 'just a phone' when u can have one that plays your favorite tunes, has a anime cat waving a letter when u get email, a scroll wheel, fat full color screens (yah i know, we're just getting them now), or letting u answer a call and then switch to video mode (the video mode thing is coming soon, if not already there). This is all stuff I've seen in Japan where they're all into personalizing the cool stuff. And it was some fat shit. Who want's to ride in a Audi TT when u can cruise in a souped up, 'average' Civic with 3-D GPS display, CD/DVD, heads up on the windshield and tv screens for the people in the back seats?! Guess that's not the US approach tho..
      • Why the fuck would I want a big full color screen on a phone? It makes about as much sense as attaching an ice machine to a women's purse.

        I want two things from my phone: 1) For it to work. 2) For it to be as little inconvenience as possible to carry around.

        If I were the sort of person to carry a PDA around all the time anyway, attaching a phone to my PDA would make sense. Ditto for forest workers who always have a GPS on hand. Since I carry neither, for me the perfect phone would be the size of a typical earring, and worn as one. Or perhaps a sub-dermal device in my jaw.

        I don't want to carry around a big honkin' video screen all day, just so I can see a choppy picture of the person I'm talking to (if the happen to own a phone on the same service network).

        • Personally I do like my phones man sized and these little dainty 2 finger holdin' numbers just get on my last nerve.

          I like to wrap my fist around the phone when I talk on it.

          Also I would second a law that made all noise makers silenced to vibrate only. I am NOT impressed but only annoyed by the duration these idiots let their stupid phones ring. My pager is on default 'original' beep mode. NOthing more, nothing less.
          • I was also a "default ring only" guy... until I took a contract job with the TSA which required all employees to be on the road. When you find yourself in a mobile office of about 200 employees, each required to carry a cell phone so various "home offices" can reach us, you quickly learn the value of different ring tones: It's the only way to tell your phone's ring from everybody elses. Before you suggest "vibrate", understand that it was seldom practical to actually wear the phones while we were working, so they tended to pile up on nearby desks.

            As for "man sized" phones... that's all well and good, except that any phone too big to carry in your jeans pocket requires that you tote around a very un-manly fanny pack, or leave it in your girlfriend's purse all evening.

            Personally, I hate carrying a lot of shit around. During the summer, it's the driver's license, a loose roll of bills (money clips are redundant), one Visa card, a small ring of two keys (car and house), and my phone. Even the smallest currently affordable phone is still probably going to be the biggest thing I carry when the weather is warm.

        • Ok the subdermal phone is a great idea, right up until you decide to change providers. Considering the service I get from SprintPCS, the idea of them pulling bits out of any part of me (my wallet excepted), is frightning.
          • Right... earring phone it is, then. Do you think the early models look like that chunky earpeice that Lt. Uhura wore on the old Star Trek? That would be cool, in a retro-chic kind of way.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Most of the fads we see tend to have some obvious -- if obnoxious -- logic to it. Macarena? Catchy and annoying as all get-out. Pokemon? Competition, community, kids running around saying dumb things (which is precisely what kids are supposed to do). Micro RC cars? Cute and disturbingly entertaining to everyone but our employers and cats. I could go on for quite some time but because I wish to annoy you, the gracious reader, as little as possible, I'll get right to the point.

      What do frickin' ringtones offer?


      They have been very popular in europe and are now on their way out ;) Thank god for that, cause they will eventually freak you out when you're hearing the latest and greatest of some hillbilly tune from an old lady on the bus.
      This is not a U.S. phenomenon and it won't ever be a U.S. phenominon. I'm not trying to imply that the United States is somehow more sophisticated, I'm suggesting that Americans tend to view cellphones ringing about as enjoyable as listening to a car alarm going off. And not because they're boring, monotone and tedious, either. We dislike the phone because it represents an interruption, rendered jarringly, like an audial ICQ popup (though I'm told they don't do that anymore).

      And you don't think anyone finds it anoying over here? And therefore people won't like it? Mmmmkay.
      As a lot of other new mobile phone trends they started with teenagers using it, and then grew onto the general public (like SMS). The only thing stopping this thing from anoying you too within the next 6-12 months might be that most US phones propably don't support custom ringing signals, since most of them are ancient crap (or so i hear :)).
    • that Americans tend to view cellphones ringing about as enjoyable as listening to a car alarm going off.

      They must really enjoy it then. I sure hear an awful lot of car alarms going off all of the time. So many in fact, that no one even pays attention to them anymore.

    • > What do frickin' ringtones offer?

      When my phone is lying around somewhere in the house or in my pocket while I am driving and it rings, ringtones (used with caller groups) allow me to know if it is some friend calling and I can find the phone and check out who later when I am free or some urgent call from work so I know I should interrupt whatever I am doing/pull over and answer or call back asap.

      However this means I use the same meaningful easy to remember ringtones for the last few years.
  • Ah Yes... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by insomaniac (469016) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:11PM (#4958611)
    Ringtones, THE way to get your music out there if you're a mediocre musician with no originality at all...

    After all, did you ever hear an original ringtone...?
  • by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:12PM (#4958612)
    The music industry may be able to make some money off ring tones that are distributed commercially. However, I seriously doubt that they can prevent you from programming whatever ring tones you like into your phone. And many phones now have digital audio recording of ring tones, so, at least technically, you can simply record whatever ring tone you like from whatever source you like, including another phone.
  • ...given the unabashed greed of the music industry, we'll probably have to pay every time our cell phones ring when a copyrighted ringtone is used.

    "Quick! Answer it on the first ring or it's another dollar to the RIAA!"

    ~Philly
  • I can't describe why I think it's ghetto, but I do.
    • Assuming you're not in a space where noise would be a problem, having a personalized ringtone helps users distinguish their ringing phones from others'.

      Whenever I'm in a public space and I hear the "Nokia" ring, I often see 4 or 5 people going for their phones. If those had people personalized their ringtones, they might have been able to save themselves a bit of mad scrambling.

      (FWIW, when I'm in public, my cellphone is set to vibrate. No confusion for me.)

      • When I'm in public, I set my phone to emit a piercing high pitched whine (not unlike a jet engine) for several seconds that makes it sound like a capacitor charging. If I don't pick up the phone in 5 seconds, my phone explodes in a dramatic shower of sparks. This way I can tell what phone is mine. It's the one that sounds like a plasma rifle.
      • I guess I must have ears like a dog then:

        I've owned a cell phone for years, and always had the basic model that they give away for free, which everyone gets. I've never programmed any alternate ringtones in (for all I know, I can't on my current model), so it's always been the generic ring that comes with it.

        Maybe I'm different, but I can generally tell the difference between something ringing in my pocket and something 6 feet away.

        How do people hold coversations in a busy room if they're not capable of locating the source of sound?
  • This time... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zekk (411637) <slashdot.12.zekk@spamgourmet . c om> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:15PM (#4958624) Homepage
    I'm slowly veering off on a tangent, but I think I'm actually impressed with the music industry - haven't decided yet whether or not that's a good thing. Now that technology can make music free (and available), why not make it omnipresent as well? Commercially, music is already tied to fashion and social identity. What about a signature song that uniquely identifies you? Sure, you can put it on your cell phone...or better still, what if *your* song played every time you called someone else? (Throw this onto other suitable appliances as you will.) For me, someone who wants to be accompanied by a walking bass line at all times, this would be a perk. If you had the money, you could even pay someone to write you that special, identifying song. Maybe the musicians and techno geeks out there should get a piece of this - I'd love to write my own ringtone and put it on my phone, and I doubt I'm the only one. Offer the wireless companies this customization at a less exorbitant rate than the RIAA would, and you'd have a pretty nice offer.
    • You'll have to put up with the imperial march every time some random asshole wants to call you. I like the idea of theme music, I used to have IRC scripts that played music in the background when certain people joined, but widespread use of this would be bad. Keep it for the geeks, kill off everyone else.
    • > Now that technology can make music free (and
      > available), why not make it omnipresent as
      > well?

      Because 99% of what you and your friends consider great "tunes" I consider obnoxious, intrusive crap. And vice-versa, no doubt.

      > What about a signature song that uniquely
      > identifies you?

      I don't think that the sort of people who are interested in these things want to be unique.

      > ...better still, what if *your* song played
      > every time you called someone else?

      Clever. Audible caller id. I'd find obnoxious, except that I will never own a phone that plays tunes anyway. I might someday be willing to use one that says things like "You have a call from Zekk", though.
  • It occurs to me that there are a finite set of possible ring tome combinations

    Therefore, someone could create a comprehensive database of all possible ringtone combinations, copyright it, and publish it.

    Then sue the RIAA for infringement.

    ho ho ho

    • These [magnus-opus.com] guys decided to assign a tone to each integer less than ten and some other chsracters and run the whole mess through a combination generator, generating a series of musicial pieces which are the tonal representations of pretty much any phone number out there. Hence, they own the copyright to your phone number.

      Another great example of reducio ad absurdum - taking something to its absurd extreme. Or they could be simply making fun of the international copyright system.

    • It occurs to me that there are a finite set of possible ring tone combinations

      Yes. However, even if you limit it to 16 notes of 12 pitches (do through sol in the next octave, or do chromatically through ti in the same octave) and short, medium, or long duration, you get 36^16 possible notes, on the order of 10^25 or 2^83. That's possibly several zillion times more information than exists in all the libraries of all the congresses of all the countries of all the planets in our galaxy.

      However, copyright law does consider some partial melody matches to constitute infringing misappropriation. Look at an essay [everything2.com] I wrote about the "Yes! We have no bananas!" case and musical combinatorics that argues that there exist fewer than fifty thousand melodies that a judge (who is not a musician) would consider distinct.

      Therefore, someone could create a comprehensive database of all possible ringtone combinations

      That's been tried with telephone numbers [slashdot.org].

  • by zogger (617870) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:16PM (#4958631) Homepage Journal
    ---dang, finally got old enough to think "WTF IS IT" with the younger generation and their weird interests...ringtones, I had zero idea what they where, had to read the article to see what it was.. a BILLION a year for this stuff????

    so then I travel back in mind-time and remember when... uhhh... oh crap... lavalamps, blacklight posters, duncan yo-yo's, nehru jackets, "head" boots.. OMG!

    NEVER MIND LADS, CARRY ON!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:23PM (#4958650)
    ... will just be a sample of my yelling "OH MY GOD THERE IS A BOMB UNDER MY SEAT!!"
    That should be great in movie theatres...
    • Just hope they don't make you turn on your phone at the airport security gate to demonstrate that it's real....


      Penn Jillette once described a screen saver he wanted for his laptop that started out by counting 10..9...8...7... in big letters, just for the airport people.

  • by Parsec (1702) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:25PM (#4958653) Homepage Journal

    vibrate

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:52PM (#4958715) Homepage
    Ringtones are currently moving from polyphonic (MIDI-type) formats to compressed audio (MP3-type) formats. This requires much better audio output at the handset. (Plus, of course, more rights from the RIAA. MIDI only requires a license from the songwriter, and those are cheap.)

    So we need subwoofers for cell phones. Or at least speakers that can go down to 100Hz or so, to get rid of that tinny sound. Of course, you need some high notes so people can find the cellphone; with nothing but bass, the wavelength is too long for localization.

  • Copyrighted how ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dackroyd (468778) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:53PM (#4958721) Homepage
    Can someone please explain why the music labels feel that they deserve to get any cash for these ring tones ? I am not a copyright lawyer, but I have been connected with most of the arguments [ukcdr.org].

    AFAIK this is a classic example of a (remotely) derived work, and lets face it a phone going dee-da-da-dee-da is not in really remotely related to or produced from the actual music that they phone melody makers are trying to reproduce.

    The ring tones don't use any samples from the music and the music composition is totally different, both through different timing of the notes and through playing only one (or a couple) of notes at a time. Therefore the person who makes the phone ring tone is making a completely new piece of work and shouldn't need to give any cash for the permission to distribute it.

    The only thing that you could even try and argue is under copyright is the songs name, which would/should get laughed out of any court.

    So although it looks like a nice revenue stream for the music industry, why should they get any cash ?

    • The ring tones don't use any samples from the music and the music composition is totally different, both through different timing of the notes and through playing only one (or a couple) of notes at a time. Therefore the person who makes the phone ring tone is making a completely new piece of work and shouldn't need to give any cash for the permission to distribute it.

      Re-read that paragraph.

      If a ringtone's "musical composition is totally different" from an existing musical work then, by definition, it doesn't sound the same. However, what we're talking about is works that do sound the same.

      Note, there is a distinct difference between "identical" and "the same".

      When I was a kid, I could play John William's Star Wars theme tune on my tinny Casio keyboard. Sure, it wasn't "identical" - nobody was ever going to mistake my performance on a kid's toy with that of a full, professional orchestra - but it was "the same" as far as any listener was concerned. My friends and family were impressed I could play Star Wars and, to a 6 year-old kid, that was all that mattered.

      However, if I had tried to sell recordings of my rendition of the tune as an original work then the corporate lawyers representing John Williams (or his record label) would have stomped all over me, and rightly so. I would have been infringing on the copyright of an established artist, pure and simple.

      The same is true today, and not just in the arts world - just because I could create a close (but not identical) copy of the classic Coca-Cola bottle that doesn't give me the right to use it commercially packaging my own brand of cola or other beverage.

      Bottom line: there is a world of difference between composing an original work (even one that is inspired by or draws on previous works) and a simple reproduction of it, no matter how basic. (I won't even bother expanding on the argument that the next generation of phones that support polyphonic ringtones can produce tunes that are as good as 128kb/s MP3s.)

      If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck and acts like a duck, then it's pretty likely to be a duck. Similarly, if a ringtone sounds like Run DMC's Walk This Way, The Prodigy's Firestarter, or whatever, then the same rule applies.

      Finally, your assertion that "the only thing that you could even try and argue is under copyright is the songs name, which would/should get laughed out of any court", is laughable. You claim to be familiar with the arguments surrounding copyright ownership but yet you don't know that you can't copyright facts?

      If what you said is true then the record labels would have shut down CDDB and FreeDB years ago. And artists (or their labels) would be suing each other left, right and centre over song titles. Last time I checked, Huey Lewis And The News weren't suing Frankie Goes To Hollywood over the name The Power Of Love, or vice versa.
      • The joke is that the 'compose ringtone' feature on my phone is DISABLED by the phone company. You know, so I'll have to 'buy' the ability to play the tune on my casio - er, my phone.

        I'm all for not allowing folks to sell copies, but you sure as hell should be able to make them for yourself. It burns me that my provider (Telus) or phone maker (Sony/Ericsson) removed the 'compose' feature (its right there in the manual), so I'll never buy a stupid ring tone in my life.

        I _can_ play Star Wars well enough to do it myself on a silly little beeping thing, thanks. Now the whole John Williams orchestra thing .. sure, I'll pay to hear that. I dont know what the parent poster was on, but trying to ban people from writing their own? Fuck that! Whats next, I gotta check with the labels before I play my piano?
      • What about parodies? A lot of parody (say, Weird Al) has music almost identical to the original works, but they don't even have to get permisison if they don't want to!

        I personally think ringtones fall nicley into the "Parody" category, as almost always it's just kind of humorous to hear some butchered rendition of a song you know as a ring.
        • What about parodies? A lot of parody (say, Weird Al) has music almost identical to the original works, but they don't even have to get permisison if they don't want to!

          Uh, actually, yes they do. Weird Al has gotten permission from plenty of artists. He can't charge for the parody without getting permission (some of his earlier parodies are only found on Dr. Demento CDs because of this). He even claimed in an interview once that it was really hard to get permission until Michael Jackson let him do one of his songs. Now, all he has to say is "Michael Jackson let me do his" (that's what he said at the time) and they let him do it almost instantly.

          By the same token, the guy who wrote "Star Wars Cantina" (to the tune of Copa Cabana) has never and can never charge for the song because Barry Manilow won't give him permission.

          It really just depends on how big an artist you are. The bigger you are, the easier it will probably be to get permission to charge for a parody. Otherwise, you'll be limited to releasing your parody on some p2p network.
  • ... deals with mainly how the ringtone phenomenon is set to rip apart profits of the music industry giants. It's the RIAA, MP3 and Napster issue all over again.

    Envisional [envisional.com], a UK-based Internet monitoring company, even goes so far as to claim that "Illegal downloads of mobile ringtones costs music industry $1million per day [envisional.com]". However, in all fairness, that article does mention that the estimates they talk about are rough, since "Reliable figures on the total ringtone market are very hard to come by...but there is no doubt as to the scale of the problem. This is another Napster in the making."

  • by SirSlud (67381) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @10:17PM (#4958790) Homepage
    Who cares about the music _industry_, who's going to save music?

    'Nuff said.
  • Fair Use? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @10:26PM (#4958821)
    Now I believe that one of the specific "fair use" exclusions to copyright is for reporting purposes.

    In such cases of course, the excerpted piece of otherwise copyrighted material must only be a small percentage of the original work.

    This allows one newspaper report to quote a few lines from a competing publication without fear of breaching their copyright.

    So what's wrong with the claim that turning 10 seconds or so of a top-40 song into a ring-tone isn't also covered by this "fair use" exclusion because it's only a tiny percentage of the original work and it's *reporting* that someone has called your cellphone?

    It would certainly be an interesting sharkfight if someone decided to test it out in the courts :-)

    • by pb (1020)
      Yes, a ringtone is *way* too short to be anything but fair use. If a one minute, low-quality clip on Amazon.com (or anywhere!) is fair use, then a TEN SECOND SEQUENCE OF CRAPPY BEEPS is DEFINITELY fair use.

      So tell those stupid greedy bastards to read their copyright law again before they start reaching for our wallets on this one...
    • If you actually read the article, you'll see it's not about fair use, copyright, or the RIAA hunting down ringtone pirates. There's no controversy raging here. The music industry has simply discovered that a lot of Europeans are willing to pay to download riffs from hit songs converted to ringtones. The RIAA is salivating because maybe they still have a future after all. If you think about it, it's pretty pathetic.
    • hmm... i thought that, in order for an excerpt of a song to be considered fair use, it had to be a clip of less than ten seconds.

      IANAL, of course, but as i recall, that's how commercials get away with using tunes ... they either use a clip that's less than 10 seconds, or they change *just* enough of the tune that it isn't considered to be identical to the original.

      Now, the only reason I'd guess that cell companies, et al, don't just ignore the RIAA on this one is that this is enough of a cost-free cash cow that it's a whole lot cheaper to pay than fight...

  • by Flounder (42112) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @10:45PM (#4958863)
    All I want is my car alarm to scream out, ala James Brown "HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY"

    My phone's ring is The Liberty Bell March, also known as the theme to Monty Python's Flying Circus. It came built in to my phone. I don't confuse my phone ringing with anybody elses, and I get a secret little geek thrill every time my phone rings.
    • I get a secret little geek thrill every time my phone rings.


      Man that's hard not to interpret as a euphemism for "orgasm!"

      Well, so long as your phone plays the Python theme and doesn't vibr...er...it doen't vibrate, does it?
      : )

    • I want my car's arm/disarm sound to come from the subwoofer in the trunk. A heartbeat might be nice, or a couple of nice drum kicks. Of course, when the alarm gets triggered, there'll be a nice, screeching sound, but when I'm arming it, I don't need that annoying chirp. I also don't need music.
  • Fucking Morons
  • Since when did programing in Q-Basic (cause thats all you need to make these ring tones) start paying cash?
  • by jjohnson (62583) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:41AM (#4959140) Homepage
    Who thinks that the whole mobile telephony market is the grossest example of feature overload ever? It puts dot-com boom to shame. You can take pictures with a cell phone, but you still can't have a conversation without static and a choppy signal. There's no such thing as perfect nationwide coverage, but you can customize the image on the screen. Who gives a flying fuck about playing a bad, not-even-midi-quality song for a ring tone when the phone itself works badly?
  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:56AM (#4959185) Homepage
    Two years ago: Nobody would pay for this shit
    Now: Some people would.

    Percent incrase: ((Now/Then) * 100) - 100
    WARNING: DIVIDE BY ZERO!

    INFINITE GROWTH!!!!!!
  • ... for any of the ring tones I compose on my phones.

    I always put one obviously wrong note (or two) in them, just for kicks. Kinda like how Bugs Bunny would play them.

    Someone's phone is ringing.....

    Oh, that's DEFINITELY mine.
  • My 6310 came with a pale imitation of it. No downloads required. No royalties either.
  • At least where I live. So many sites has been shutdown because they offered FREE ringtones of copyrighted songs.
    So new pay sites came along, then then even ad's on tv for those sites. The kids love those ring tones, and those guys in the sales dept.

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