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Ring-Tone Royalties 255

Bonker writes: "I shook my head sadly when I saw this article on Techweb. It's about a company in the U.K. called Envisional, who monitors intellectual property violations. It seems that they believe that each Ringtone download is worth 7.5 c. The 'monitoring startup calls the downloading of musical ring tones "another Napster in the making" and says the industry may be losing more than $1 million a day in related royalties.' Sad sad sad." If it was April Fool's this would go down much easier.
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Ring-Tone Royalties

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    record labels are entitled to 7.5 cents for each download of a ring tone that uses copyrighted material

    And what do they plan to do with all the half-cents they will collect, glue them in pairs?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    One solution would be to only listen to music whose copyright had expired. This would include many of the great song writers of the last century such as George M. Cohan, Paul Dresser, Jack Norworth, Cole Porter, and thousands more. Sure, it might not be "current". But it is free, and those old tin-pan alley tunes are considered pretty good.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well $1 million divided by 7.5c a ringtone makes 1.33 million downloads a day. I think this number is roughly equivalent to the number of people who actually though about doing that.
    Seems either really farfetched or just plain dumb to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You might laugh but sites in the UK charge about £1 per ring tone, billed to the phone-bill. The royalty estimates are based on these charges -- so money really is being made off the back of artist's work (and if you disagree, why else would someone want a ring-tone of "It wasn't me" without Shaggy's brand-image?). Not all copyright claims are unfair.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    According to [] "There are three major defenses to copyright infringement. The first is 'de minimis' use, that is, the amount taken was so small that it does not make a difference." Unless these ringtones are playing a more than a few seconds of music, it isnt likely that they contain enough to be considered copyright infringement. So much for my scheme to copyright the power chords. However, I might be able to trademark them and spew forth litigation later.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:03AM (#254484)

    AFAIK here in Finland each ringtone you download has a small percentage in it which goes to support the Gramex []/Teosto [] copyright organizations.

    My personal opinion is that the said organizations suck ass because of them you do not eg. hear radio in the bus (it would cost too much to pay the copyright mafia "their" money for the priviledge of "broadcasting" music to an audience). So you just have to sit quietly and stare out the window. If you've been in a Finnish bus, you know what I mean. Also, basically the money you pay end up supporting the most popular artists, Finland's equivalent of someone like B. Spears.

    Why should there be these kind of organizations? Why should there even be record labels? Straight from artist to the consumer is the way to go. At this point there are too many middlemen in the chain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:40PM (#254485)
    BUt its true and you know it.

    If 10000000 people get something for free, then how can you know that the demand would be the same for $20, or $100?

    its like saying , hey we sold 12000 copies at $39.95, but if we sold these CDs for $100each we could have made more money, thus did they really LOOSE, 7200000, or gain 479400. Im sure the tax man would tell you to fuck off, if you told him you made a loss of selling software fore $39.95 and said you made a loss of 7.2M$ because you could have sold it at $100each.

    The BSA is full of shit.
  • I just want General MIDI [] on there! So many instruments [] to choose from, ahh. And, none of that nasty FM Synthesis either ;).

    Alex Bischoff
  • I can see it now... some sharpie compiles every possible (western scale) progression of six notes, copyrights and "publishes" that work, and sends an invoice for "royalties" to any company or prosperous-looking individual who is suspected of using any of the "tunes" as a cell phone ring -- or in any other form.

    Sure, most people/companies would throw the notice in the nearest trash can, but who knows? If the amount requested wasn't huge, enough might pay it "to avoid litigation" that this could be a viable "business" model.

    Isn't the 21st Century fun?

    - Robin

  • No...if they can hear the music down the street in their houses, you may or may not be evil, but you are definatly an asshole.

    My old neighboorhood must have been full of commies, cause everyone played their stereo so loud so everyone could share.
  • Why? Is it a parody, scholarly work, or other protected derivative work?

    I think that any music trying to come out of a cel-phone would be a parody of the original :)
  • More than a few bars is really annoying-- forget the fair use issue. If I want to listen to music, I have a stereo. Reproduction on a cell phone cheapens the percieved value of the music.

    (It's akin to the line "It's like a Mozart symphony" in Spinal Tap's "Listen to the Flower People, played to a really bad rendition of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik").

  • And out of curiousity, how do you feel about the abuse by pirates using such things as Napster?

    Obviously that's ok, because you are getting something for free, right?

    When I initially read this article I thought it was bogus. Then I read it again and realized what they were saying is that companies that sell ringtone downloads to phones for $1/song or whatever, should be giving a percentage of that to the original song owner.

    I think that makes since. The only thing that differentiates their $1/song from my bring*bring is the tones from the song.

    So whose work is that? Is the work to transpose 12 notes from a pop song worth $1?

    Obviously not. So shouldn't the entity which is truly responsible for the work that makes the 12 notes desirable over bring*bring be rewarded?

    I think so, and that's the entire basis of intellectual property.

    Now if I encode it and put it in my phone myself... Then I consider that fair use, and I suspect the courts would as well.

    As much as I dislike the Bush administration, your attempt to compare this to his disasterous energy policy plan is kind of silly.

  • It's not clear to me that it is fair use if you are essentially making money off of someone else's work without permission.

    If you encode the songs yourself, without paying this third entity... Then that is fair use.
  • by counsell ( 4057 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:10PM (#254497) Homepage
    In the UK press there are hundreds of ads for absurdly expensive "services" "selling" ringtones of chart songs at £1 a time. I suspect they are not run by the sorts of people who regularly 'fess up to the PRS (Publishing Rights Society). I've never owned a mobile, but if I did (and had the bad taste to want to draw attention to myself with the latest from Destiny's Child bleeping out from my crotch) I'd rather my £1 went to Beyonce than some dodgy geezer in a lock-up in the East End of London.
  • I also seem to recall seeing somewhere that if you do your own arrangement of a particular tune, you're not infringing, since it's not technically the same piece of music anymore. If you use the original lyrics, you're still required to pay the lyricist, though. This is why you constantly hear popular tunes done instrumentally and cheesily on Muzak - they don't have to pay any royalties on that particular arrangement.
  • by _Gus ( 5251 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:17AM (#254500)
    Correct! We run a ringtone site here in the UK, and 10% of everything we make goes to the MCPS [], the Mechancial Copyright Protection Society. Just like the PRS protects the performance of a work, the MCPS protects the composer of a work, the composer being a much more appropriate recipient of the royalties.
    I don't know wether I'm for or against this; one part of me (the bit that wants to be a millionaire;) says no but I can see the MCPSs point.
    We're employing professional musicians to recode the essence/melody of popular (i.e. well known) tunes in to MIDI files. Sometimes this works really well and other times it comes out sounding awful, but bearing in mind the process I'd still say it's "music".
  • Pirates use Napster? I wouldn't think they would have the time, what with raping, pillaging and looting and all.

    I guess yohoho_and_a_bottle_of_rum.mp3 is a pretty popular download these days...

  • "Police today pulled over Jane Deaux on I-75. She was charged with copyright infringement when she could not prove she had not received proper authoriation from the music industry to sing along with the radio. Music Industry spokeman I. P. Freely was quoted as saying that sing-along piracy was costing the music industry 'billions of dollars daily.'"
    That's highway robbery!!!!


  • by Squeak ( 10756 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @03:26AM (#254505)
    The UK population is, I think, about 50-60 million. The proportion owning mobile phones recently reached 60%, surpassed in the world only by some of the Scandanavian countries. That's about 35 million cell phones. 13 million calls a day seems reasonable.
  • by Squeak ( 10756 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @03:51AM (#254506)
    Every now and then somebody with a midi capable phone asks 'Can I convert a .wav/mp3 to midi?' on comp/ There is software to do it, but your mileage may vary. After somebody asked this on /. some time ago I started writing a package, WaveGoodbye, available here [], but this is designed for polyphonic conversion which phones cannot handle (yet). This is now the most capable of the free wav->midi conversion programs, and can rival the commercial packages at piano music conversion. The version 1, Windows only, binary is freely available and version 2 is currently under development. I am considering releasing the source for this and taking it cross platform. Any Kylix developers out there interested? The faq (linked from the above link, unless it has moved again) contains a list of poly- and mono-phonic conversion programs. Polyphonic conversion is very difficult and still a topic of research in many university media groups. Monophonic conversion is easier and these programs are generally more accurate.
  • by K. ( 10774 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @02:28AM (#254507) Homepage Journal
    1) Most people are downloading these ringtones via
    calls to premium rate lines, so somebody is
    making money off them. It's a commercial venture
    and as such should they be paying for rights to
    use other peoples more-or-less artistic efforts.

    2) Custom ringtones are so annoying that they may
    in fact herald the apocalypse. I for one would be
    for the human toaster in the event of such, so
    anything that cuts down on their use is a good

  • I'd challenge the uniqueness of a 10 or 15 note melody.

    The publishers of the sheet music for Handel's Messiah took the publishers Handel's Messiah to court, claiming that the melody was a direct steal from the "Hallelujah chorus" from the Messiah. They WON. (This happened in the 1920's; the Westman Company, publisher of the sheet music for Messiah were awarded a share of "Bananas" profits. The court did not decide if the second line of the song was a direct steal from the second line of "My Bonnie").

    So, using this as a precedent, it takes FOUR NOTES to successfully sue for stealing a melody. Ten or fifteen notes, is a blatent RIPOFF!

  • by tregoweth ( 13591 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @03:36AM (#254510)
    A ring tone doesn't use the original recording (yet). If it's just performing the song, then only the song's publishers and writers should be concerned, not the record companies. Keep your evil money-grubbing industries straight, you analysts and writers!
  • by ja ( 14684 )
    There is no exact limit to where copyright infringement starts other than a "substantial part". This is often interpreted as four bars, which (in popmusic) translates into eight seconds or some such.

    I doubt your ringtone is eight seconds long. You would't live to hear it ...

    mvh // Jens M Andreasen

  • New phones have this -- as others have pointed out, the Nokias do.

    The samsung (maybe 3500, I know my 8500) can have distinctive rings for individuals, groups, pages vs calls, text messages, emails, etc. It's really pretty out of hand IMHO. There should be one global override available (you can set "all calls" and "all pages", which is close) so you can easily switch from rings to vibrate...

  • so many people around you you can barely move, when you hear the sound of a cell phone ringing--loud.

    If you set it to vibrate, the worst that would happen is the lady next to you might fall in love (but you'd know it was YOUR phone ringing)...

  • The replies to my original post so far exceed 2,000 characters (including the /. formatting). You all together owe me in excess of $100,000. Since I have no way to identify or track you, I'll just send my bill to Slashdot and OSDN. If they cannot pay my bill, then I'll hire a patent attorney and tomorrow you'll all be posting on
  • by PRickard ( 16563 ) <pr@ms-b[ ]om ['c.c' in gap]> on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:41PM (#254515) Homepage
    Tomorrow I'm going to contact the patent office and file a claim on the following:

    "Method of using symbols or verbal / musical tones to communicate thoughts, ideas, and emotions between individuals."

    I'll charge $10 for every letter typed and $50 for every spoken syllable (special discounts available - contact me for details). That takes care of me ever having to work again, saving my time and energy for more valuable things like playing all the way through Doom in less than eight hours.

  • You appear to have never worked in Tech Support.

  • This is to go along with their "Campfire Control." Whenever a group of Boy/Girl Scouts, YMCA campers, a family on vacation, etc., sits down and has a sing-a-long, the RIAA will have an enforcer present to throw poison ivy into the fire.

  • Basically, yes. The rash, and accompanying itching, swelling, etc. (depending on how sensitive you are) is caused by an oily secretion from the ivy. Not sure if it comes from leaves, stem or both, but I have gotten a rash from both. If you burn it, it becomes gas, and still contains the irritants. That means it can easily get into eayes, ears and respiratory. A friend of mine was on a Boy Scout campout when some idiot threw some in the fire. The kids who got into the smoke all ended up with seriously affected eyes, ears, nose, throat and pretty much all exposed skin. That, and the fact that I would have gotten beat up more, makes me glad I didn't join the Scouts.

  • by B.D.Mills ( 18626 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:07PM (#254519)
    Coppin said record labels are entitled to 7.5 cents for each download of a ring tone that uses copyrighted material....

    Um, NO. The recording industry trades in music recordings, not music compositions. If I was to purchase the sheet music for the Brandenburg concerto and put an excerpt on a mobile phone, I owe the recording industry NOTHING. Same happens if I was to purchase sheet music for "Hey Jude" by Paul McCartney, or something else recent. The only person to whom I would owe money is the composer. The recording industry cannot claim royalties from anyone for making their own performances from the original, legally-purchased sheet music.

  • All things aside about copyright laws, rights, etc. this story tells us something about the mentality all too many companies have:

    "Someone is obviously ripping me off, or I can claim they are, and thus make money at it."

    It's a treasure hunt to find out how to charge people as much as possible for anything remotely related to your business, or to other people's business (and claim you're just helping to enforce intellectual property rights).

    It's the ultimate hope of making money for nothing.
  • by coj ( 20757 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:59AM (#254521) Homepage
    Aren't ring tones sort of like a reinterpretation of a song? IANAL, but is this a legally valid claim?

    You still pay royalties on a "reinterpretation" of a song. I've performed a cover on each of my last two albums, and in both cases my record label paid about 7 cents per CD manufactured in royalties to the publisher of the song.

    The law establishes what's called a "compulsory mechanical license", essentially saying to the owner of publishing rights on the song "yes, you own the rights, but if someone wants to cover your song, you MUST grant them that right so long as they pay the current per-use royalty rate."

    You can check out more info at:

    -Ed []
  • I normally resent record companies going after people with lawyers, but I'd give anything to rid the world of those obnoxious cell-phone tunes.
  • If it wasn't something they'll probably think of, that would be really funny...

    Wondering- My car stereo is louder than most, am I an evil man because people outside of my car (and when I'm feeling annoying, down the street and in their houses) can hear the music too???

    Remember when it was ok to listen to music, and you only had to pay if you wanted to own a copy? Those were the days, weren't they?

  • that's how i tell mine apart :)
  • by Pahroza ( 24427 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:02PM (#254526)
    I mean as far as ring tones go, it's much easier to manually duplicate a series of tones.

    It's not quite the same as the issue of a full blown song and trying to replicate that from scratch, or is it? If it is copyright infringement to download a ring tone, is it also copyright infringement to display a list of numbers to press and save that will "sound just like" a popular song? Additionally, would it also be copyright infringement for me to attempt to duplicate a song without directions, merely pressing keys to a song in my head that I know exists?
  • by Wiztan ( 30736 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:43PM (#254528)
    First I heard this I thought it was stupid. Then a couple of days later I heard that in Sweden STIM (the organization administrating all the royalties for music in Sweden) actually gets at least 10 cents (1 SEK) for each ring-tone sent out from the mayor protals that has these ring-tones!
    I assume this will happen in more countries and I assume it already happened in the UK.

  • by OmniFool ( 31929 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:55PM (#254529) Homepage
    The problem is that mobile phone companies are charging money to deliver these crap sounds to your phone...Therefore the artists should get a share...........If there was no money involved no one in their right mind would try to charge for this "art".
  • by einTier ( 33752 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:32PM (#254530)
    ...and it will eventually swing the other way. I think we're reaching the beginnings of the end.

    This is just another step. Lawyers will keep trying to clamp down on intellectual property until we finally say "ENOUGH". Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should go out and pilfer every piece of IP that isn't secured (and even try to get the ones that are). But, at some point, Joe Sixpack will realize how insanely stupid it is for him to pay $0.076 for a tune on his Nokia phone. One that may or may not be copyrighted or may not even really resemble the original song. He'll then start wondering why CDs have never come down in price and why the artist (who we only want to protect, remember?) gets so very little. Then he'll wonder why he can't play his new "enhanced" music media in the car AND at home. Then he'll wonder why he spends so much money on IP in the first place.

    Yes, it's fun to have a unique ring on my phone (mine happens to play Europe's Final Countdown). I wouldn't pay extra for the benefit. I coded mine from some very old sheet music I had laying around. I don't know if that's copyright infringement, but I do know I could play it on my keyboard in 1987, and I could even program my keyboard to play it ad infinitum if I so chose. I don't see the difference between it and my phone. If anything, the phone is lesser quality.

    At any rate, back to the original conversation. The record labels are shooting themselves in the foot. Even Wal-Mart figured out that to get people in the door, you've got give a little bit away. They can lock down every musical format they want, make it where it's not usable any more, and guess what? Their customer base will die out. I'm quite sure they'll just blame it on piracy though, like they always do.

    I'm just waiting patiently for the day the pendulum starts swinging back the other way. More and more people are getting appalled by the increased prices, restricted uses, and gestapo tactics. When they finally get this phone thing locked down, I'm sure it'll be about as useful as [].

  • You go camping with your friends and some of them bring a guitar. Night comes, and you decide to make fire and sing some stuff. Suddenly a pair of RIAA agents appear from nowhere and sue all of you for copyright violation.

    Sorry, that trick has been tried already. ASCAP went after the American Camping Association - which represents (amongst other) some Girlscouts camps - for royalties on the songs the girls tend to sing around their campfires. This whole mess eventually was concluded by the Girlscouts asking for and getting exemption because they're a non-profit organization.

    Read it from the horse's (ASCAP's) mouth here: uts.html []

    A bit of Googling [] around the web will yield more results.

  • by pmc ( 40532 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:32AM (#254532) Homepage
    He only wants you to contact him so he can then sue you for patent infringement - you must infringe the patent to contact him. Beware!
  • by frenchs ( 42465 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:54AM (#254533) Homepage
    Ok, so I finally decided to look around for relevant information when I make a post for once. So here's what I came up with.

    For all the people talking about public domain... take a look at: []. Basically there are different periods when different songs come into the public domain... just look at the chart for the info.

    For those talking about Fair Use, we can basically say that Fair Use is a decorative law... basically it does nothing but offer guidelines... it doesn't say anything concrete.. []. Take a look, you can read it... it's just pretty much fluff.

    And then we come to the RIAA site ( [])... although very biased on the topic, you can see their position in the following quote.

    "Generally speaking, you are not allowed to take the 'value' of a song without permission, and sometimes that value is found even in a three-second clip."
    The general rule for teachers and students is that you can use 10% of a song, but not more than 30 seconds... but as the RIAA page states... even value can be derived from a three second clip. So basically, if the people try and fight the music companies on this one... they are taking a big gamble... because "value" is what it all comes down to... nothing in the fair use law gaurantees anything for them.


  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but the actual typeface and point size of the individual letters in a plain text file are identical. So if there are 26 letters in the alphabet, and we count the insertion of spaces and punctuation, there are finitely many possible combinations of letters and spaces, seeing as the notes themselves are undifferentiated in any aspect but character set and character code. And, compared to the total number of combinations of possible images (which for all intents and purposes is infinite), this number is rather small. Seen in this light, the argument that some of these texts are protected works of creativity, capable of being--nay, supposed to be--charged for seems absolutely absurd!
  • > If it is copyright infringement to download a ring tone, is it also copyright infringement to display a list of numbers to press and save that will "sound just like" a popular song?

    The thread on Threatening Online Tablature [] is over that-a-way.

    In a nutshell, yeah, it is, and the landsharks at Harry Fox Agency (the same bunch of sheepfuckers that nuked a few years ago) is suing people over it.

  • > > Are lawyers really that devoid of ethical and moral sense that they'll spend time on this?
    > Yes.

    Modded as (+1, Funny)?

    Moderators on crack again. That wasn't (+1, Funny), it was (+1, Informative)!

  • You too? Some bastard in my office has that 'Final Countdown' ringtone too...
  • besides, you can probably hack a cellphone to be a passable FM synth.. and you wondered how they made that 'Dr. Who' soundtrack...

  • by 0xA ( 71424 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:39PM (#254543)
    I see a lot of people here jumpning up and down like this is a big nasty thing. It's not.

    Using something like this should be covered under fair use. Let face it, 5 or 6 notes of the latest boy band crud comming out of you cell phone isn't going to cause record companies any grief, if you programmed it in yourself. I doubt that even if you had a site that gave the little tunes you programmed away for free they would care. The problem comes up when somebody starts selling these little clips to other people. That's not fair use, that's generating profit from someone else's trademark. That's why record companies are going to get pissed.

    The issue the article brings up is that people are selling these things and not giving artists, composers or publishers their cut of the revenue. I have a hard time thinking that it's a fair use situation.
  • I never wanted my cell phone to play 20 bars for F"ur Elise or Flight of the Bumblebee or various race-horse music, though it would have been nice if the basic Big Ben clock-tower chimes were in the list of 40 or so tunes in my phone. I'd much rather just type in a few notes so I could tell my phone from the other nearby Nokia users' phones. 4-5 tones is generally enough - it really annoys me to listen to the shorter tunes go on for a dozen or so notes when they've already made their point. Yes, some people like that sort of stuff, and they did gain a lot of popularity by people playing with their phone music out in public where other people could notice it.

    But the problem is that the phone doesn't have Open Source Music. Tunes are objects that you can download by SMS, if you happen to live in GSM-land where SMS works, but at least the earlier and dumber phone versions didn't let you enter your own. It would also have saved them a bunch of memory by providing half as many tunes and letting you enter your own.

    And this whole intellectual property nonsense could be pretty much avoided. Beethoven's dead, and from a copyright standpoint he doesn't care whether you enter just 4 notes of his 5th Symphony (fair use, if trite) or the whole first movement. Walt Disney on the other hand, is merely spending the century dead for intellectual property law reasons so you may not be able to use much Mickey Mouse music. Brittany Spears is still alive, so if you want your phone to play Oops I called you again you might ask your lawyer whether the Digital Millenium Copyright Atrocity cancels out fair use for programming 6 notes into your phone but I wouldn't bother.

    Does the RIAA/ASCAP/MPAA mafia extract money from the people who make those car horns that play 20 different annoying tunes?

  • ...this has been a reality in Sweden for quite some time now (a fee of 1SEK, roughly .1USD, per ringtone). It's time to start up a new music industry since the existing one won't adapt to reality anytime soon :( Anyone with a master plan - please comment!
  • by Y-Leen ( 84208 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:57AM (#254549)
    This reminds me of a TV series we have in the UK called Trigger Happy TV. It's a sort of Candid Camera type show. There's an on running sketch where a guy screams into his huge mobile phone at inappropriate times.

    [screams] "HELLO!!?. NO, I'M IN A ART GALLERY.... NO... IT'S CRAP..."

    Check out the Big Mobile Clip [].

  • Pardon me, but where did I say it was alright to pirate software? Let me rephrase what I said in terms simple enough for you to comprehend:

    A companies revenue if there were no piracy would be lower than the total of their revenue with piracy and the loss estimated by multiplying the revenue per license by the number of pirate copies. This is because not everyone who finds the software worth using at zero cost will find it worth using at $250.

    If I read that Adobe was about to unveil a new perfect copy protection scheme that would make it impossible for anyone to pirate Photoshop, I would buy stock in Jasc Software, makers of Paintshop Pro. Why? Because many people who would prefer to use Photoshop at a cost of zero to Paint Shop Pro at a cost of $79 would prefer Paint Shop Pro at $79 to Photoshop at $479.

    You also show a lack of understanding of basic economics when you say a license is worth $X to Microsoft. It is not. A license is "worth" only what they can sell it for. Since Microsoft can "produce" an additional license at very low cost (under $10 for office), they would be perfectly willing to sell to everyone to whom office is worth more than $10. Except for one little detail: they cannot use perfectly discrimintory pricing. So they do the best they can, and will probably be able to come closer when they go to subscription based licensing.

    As for my communist propaganda, I'm a card-carrying libertarian. But I learned my economics in a classroom, not from press releases.

    Whether piracy is good or bad from an pragmatic standpoint depends on details I'm not competent to find or interpret. I think it's probably bad, because it reduces competition. From a moral standpoint, I have no problem with copyrights, because they can arise from voluntary agreements among all concerned parties.

    Your argument is flawed even if the argument you ascribe to me is correct. This is because printing counterfeit money deflates the value of everyone else's money. Pirating software, if you cannot buy it at a price less than what it is worth to you, and there are no substitutes, takes no value from anyone.
  • by kevin805 ( 84623 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:07PM (#254551) Homepage
    This is just like Microsoft claiming that since X home users pirate their software that they charge Y for, they are "losing" $XY. This is complete BS, though, because just as a home user isn't going to pay $500 for office, most people are not going to pay money to download ringtones.
  • by Noer ( 85363 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:09PM (#254552)
    Ok, if your cell phone is playing a full 3 minute pop song every time someone calls, you probably are violating copyrights (as well as risking justifiable homicide).

    But if your phone is playing a 3-second clip from a song (never mind if that song is 200+ years old and the copyright has long since expired, like Beethoven's Fifth or something), that really seems like it should fall under the doctrine of fair use. Where do you draw the line? Is it a violation of fair use if I hum a few bars of a song? I don't think so.

    But anything to get their greedy little paws on more cash, I guess...
  • by ct ( 85606 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:08PM (#254553) Homepage
    Maybe this isn't such a bad thing after all... if I don't hear another monotone version of "Hit me baby one more time" I may just be able to hold off from hitting some 15 year old teenie bopper "one more time".

  • by Artemis3 ( 85734 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:54PM (#254554)
    Sorry but Intellectual Property is now used as a tool of power for the corporations, it is no longer desirable to maintain such a system where the people has to submit to the industry. The abuse is out of control, only a radical move like banning all Intellectual Property could help. Patents, Copyrights, trade secrets, DMCA, ad nauseaum is more trouble than benefit. Speech is outlawed, research is outlawed; what else are you waiting? The current President of United States policy regarding pollution only reflect that the interests of the industry are above all elses lives; and the weather on the planet getting worse is only beginning. The people is no longer in control, they see their own governement as enemies; and thanks to the lobby system, laws are dictated according to corporate needs. So much for a `free` country where only deep pockets rule the justice. This of course, is only an opinion.


  • You're forgetting that record labels might in fact be the legal owner of the work ..
  • by BierGuzzl ( 92635 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:13PM (#254558)
    To supplement caller-id, cell customers can now have unique ringtones for each caller that calls them, or, better yet, each person can determine what the ring will sound like on the recieving end.

    This creates two intriguing but very different applications. First, there's the fun you can have with calling people when you know they're at certain places (eg: at a funeral) and playing a particularly unsuitable tune (eg: for he's a jolly good fellow) on their phone. Second, this would change who is responsible for the ring tone to the caller rather than the owner of the phone.

  • by radish ( 98371 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:22AM (#254560) Homepage

    When you make a performance of a piece of music, you must pay royalties to the publisher (the biggest in the UK is BMG). They in turn will arrange compensation to the composer, under whatever contract they have with them. If you were to buy the sheet music to Hey Jude and play that at a concert you would have to pay the owner of the copyright of the composition (usually the publisher, but in that case I think a certain mr Jackson bought all the Beatles' rights up a while ago).

    Note that the publisher can't stop you making the performance or recording, but they can demand royalties. Contrast that with the copyright owner of a recording, they have absoloute control over it and can legally stop you using it.

    Just as with anything else, any artist in a "normal" contract doesn't own squat. Their compositions are owned by the publisher, their recordings by the label.
  • The problem comes up when somebody starts selling these little clips to other people

    Disclaimer: I have a _real_ (largely irrational) loathing to "pay" for a ring tone, but that doesn't really change the following comment.

    There is nothing idealogically wrong with charging for a ringtone service insofar as the service is an investment of captial (on which a non-extraordinary profit should reasonably be able to be made) and there are costs associated with the provision of the service (for example creating the ringtone, sending the SMS that delivers it to your phone, and the cost of processing a payment of anykind). This is true even in the case of a non IP world such as the one I would advocate. Just like the Free Software movement has no issue with making money from FS, nor should the provision of this service stick in any ones craw, of itself. Sure the price may be too high, but that is the joy of markets you only pay what you think its worth.

    As for the record companies not having any grief about 5 or 6 notes from the latest boy band, I think that their current jihad on IP rights would make such a thing a prime target for their tiny minded persecutors. (end rant :-)

  • > It's the use of the major melodic theme of a piece of music without paying for it.

    Bullshit. Last time I checked, fair use encompasses the reproduction of small portions of a copyrighted work in both derivative works and for various other reasons, including the ever-popular "just because I want to as long as it's *personal* use." For example, I am entitled to go to the library and jot down a few paragraphs from any given book. If I keep that paper with a few phrases on it in my pocket, is that a violation of copyright? No. If I show that piece of paper to people occasionally, is that violation of copyright? No. That is fair use, and is entirely personal. Now, if I were to start photocopying that piece of paper with those paragraphs on it, and handing out copies to everyone...then it starts to fall into copyright violation, even though it's just a few paragraphs, because I'm distributing it and it is obviously not a personal use.

    This ring-tone nonsense is identical, only with sounds. Anyone is entitled under fair use to copy the few tones of the phrase "hit me baby one more time" for personal use, just as I am free to copy sentences out of a book and keep them in my pocket. Keeping those few musical notes on my cell-phone is the musical equivalent. It is a personal use. I am only using a very small portion of the copyrighted work. I am not distributing copies of it, it is onjly heard on my own phone when it rings. It can be heard by other people, just as I would be free to show my piece of paper with a few sentences from a book to people without violating copyright. It is a fair and personal noncommercial use of a small excerpt. Now, if I were to charge people to listen to my phone playing such musical notes, that would be a violation. If I were to make copies of the ring-tone and distribute them, then I would possibly be liable for copyright infringement--maybe, there are still arguments to be made either way. But just taking a few bars of music and programming them into my cellphone is NOT copyright infringement, it is a valid fair use.

  • by krokodil ( 110356 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:34PM (#254570) Homepage
    My phone is usually silent, but vibrates
    when call comes in. Whan idustry
    is losing money here? (I would not rather guess). ;-)

  • by _fuzz_ ( 111591 ) <.me. .at.> on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:01PM (#254571) Homepage
    If only I had copyrighted "brrrriing, brrrriing" when I had the chance.
  • Why? Is it a parody, scholarly work, or other protected derivative work? Is it a backup or time-shift of a broadcast signal? No

    Repeat after me: Puuuuubbbbblllliiiicccc Ddddddoooooommmmaaaaiiiiinnnn wherein just about any use is fair use. So I can play my Beethoven's fifth reproduction all I want... (note that in this instance a specific performance of music that is effectively public domain is still unique and copyrightable, so you make up your own, as DTMF ain't that hard, burning copies of a recording by $orchestra is still piracy).

    News for geeks in Austin: []
  • by pallex ( 126468 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:53AM (#254582)
    No - theres a terrible human cost to listening to too much Steely Dan.
  • by pallex ( 126468 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:44AM (#254583)
    perhaps his estate gets some cash whenever someone has their phone on silent or vibrate?
  • by enneff ( 135842 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:09PM (#254585) Homepage
    Wait a second...

    "Envisional Ltd., which sells software and services for monitoring intellectual-property rights violations online... decided to pursue the ring-tone research on its own."

    Well, it's obvious then. Envisional Ltd. is a company that does very little at all, if anything. They 'monitor intellectual-property rights violations'? They'd be more aptly labled 'master serach engine operators'.

    Isn't it obvious that this kind of controversial announcement, with no industry backing whatsoever, is simply an effort to gain public attention and therefore clients?
  • by enneff ( 135842 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:12PM (#254586) Homepage
    "...cell phone usage is pervasive enough that users are looking for ways to distinguish their cell phones' rings from others."

    Funny, I usually have no trouble distinguishing my phone from the others _because it's in my own fucking pocket_!

    Just how retarded do they think the users are?

  • by Hizz ( 143345 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:12AM (#254589)
    Although I agree with your point, This can get realy ugly realy fast. If This were true to form, Then Why did the RIAA file suit against napster? Nothing on Napster was being bought. It was all given away, No profit made. Statistics even show that Sales went up during high napster usage.
  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:11AM (#254591)
    The problem is that in many countries "software" and "hardware" are not split into different categories (sometimes even mixed together). A famous German lawyer goes after everyone who links to a program called "FTP-Explorer" because his client has another program called "Explorer". He has even made a license agreement with Microsoft, but he usually goes after Joe Schmoe's private homepage ("my favorite FTP clients: links" = infringement). People have to stop linking to the "infringing" site and pay $1000 in fees, it's really quite a lucrative business. There have also been cases in Germany where people have been successfully sued for including certain names / words in meta-tags. More information here [] (German).


  • by Chester K ( 145560 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:59PM (#254593) Homepage
    and says the industry may be losing more than $1 million a day in related royalties

    Yeah, and Ed McMahon and Publisher's Clearing House say I may have already won $10 million, but do you think I'm ever going to see a dime of it?

    Its only lost royalties if they would have gotten them in the first place.
  • by AntiNorm ( 155641 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:07PM (#254599)
    Two stories in a row with comments along the lines of "This isn't an April Fools Joke"...April was last month. I'm confused

    So perhaps a more appropriate comment would be "Mayday! Mayday!"? After all, this is May day (May 1).

    Am I the only Slashdotter who is sick and tired of losing 9000 karma points every time they moderate?
  • by Dyolf Knip ( 165446 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:37AM (#254608) Homepage
    Ah hah! You forgot sign language.

  • by streetlawyer ( 169828 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:33AM (#254615) Homepage
    And, compared to the total number of combinations of possible sounds (which for all intents and purposes is infinite), this number is rather small

    Which just goes to show what a fucking stupid comparison that is. Let's take the set of possible melodies of only eight notes. There are 13^8 = 815730721 different combinations of the 13 notes plus rest. In fact, of course, if you then consider rhythm and allow each note to be a crotchet or quaver, there are 26^8 = 377801998336 different combinations. Subtract 13! as combinations which start with rests are indistinguishable, and you get a total of 371574977536 possible tunes. In the circumstances, to claim that combinatorics puts any meaningful check on the number of possible tunes is ludicrous.

    jsm, not bothering to check whether subtracting 13! was the right thing to do since 1999.

  • by streetlawyer ( 169828 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @03:37AM (#254616) Homepage
    I don't disagree with anything you say. However, this story is entirely about the practice of making popular tunes available for download over mobile phones on a commercial basis. This is a common practice in the UK; perhaps it isn't in the USA (I know you always used to have decidedly inferior mobile technology).

    Fair use depends upon exactly what it says; the use. If my business model is to take the week's top 40, then to convert them into ringtone format, then to place advertisements in the newspapers inviting people to dial a premium rate phone number in order to download the ringtone tune, then it seems pretty obvious to me that I am making money out of someone else's copyrighted work and ought to pay the royalty. Guess what -- that's exactly the business model discussed in this story, and the vast majority of these ringtone operations in fact *do* pay royalties to the Performing Rights Society. There are presumably a few cowboys who don't.

    On reflection, I think that on this occasion it's likely to be differences between US mobile phone technology and the rest of the world rather than widespread ignorance of copyright which is responsible for the toxic level of cluelessness in this slashdot thread. Happy to help to clear up this misunderstanding.

  • US Surgeon General's Warning: The following post may cause serious health complications to persons whose humor glands have been surgically removed.

    Being such a well thought-out law, DMCA probably restricts this kind of activity: you're using a circumvention device (phone tone keys) to "extract" the song, thus violating copyrights.

    Of course, we all know that violating DMCA makes baby Jesus cry, incites lude behaviour, promotes drug abuse, provokes criminal acts, increases violence in schools (Columbine shooting took place only after Napster was invented), generally contributes to the decline of family values, and is the main cluprit behind the recent economic slowdown (economy was booming before Napster came along - see, there's your proof right there).

  • by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:10PM (#254623)

    That's right: millions, if not billions, are being lost because I'm able to play a CD in my car radio when I may have unauthorized, unpaying, passengers in there with me. The auto industry (as well as the car stereo industry) are complicit in this massive conspiracy of intellectual property theft.

    And don't get me started on "Boom Boxes" that can quickly turn a whole backyard of people into a group of criminal anti-capitalistic pirates.

  • by hyphz ( 179185 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @02:32AM (#254625)
    So now a ringtone is a derivative work of a full piece of music, and all the work in encoding the music is irrelevant because it's derivative?

    I can understand that.. but surely that means that a full piece of music can be a derivative of a ringtone. After all, you can just take the ringtone as the melody and add lyrics and orchestration, but that's irrelevant - it's still derivative. (I always thought that "having the potential to be a derivative work" was pretty much strictly commutative (*being* one isn't because it depends on which one was (c)'d first).)

    Also, ringtones don't take up much space. And they have a limited range of values...

    Anyone for a style project to enumerate all possible ringtones? By their logic we'd also enumerate all possible music, so all music produced would be derivative of something in the ringtone space. Then GPL the ringtone archive..
  • by JCCyC ( 179760 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:01PM (#254628) Journal
    The RIAA is lobbying for legislation mandating the deployment of "secure showers" -- if the user hums an unlicensed song during a shower, it switchs from water to sulphuric acid.
  • by dynoman7 ( 188589 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:08AM (#254632) Homepage
    That's nothing!!

    My band of lawyers have been working with several key record labels in order to go after people who sing along with the radio, music video, mp3 and "I can't get it out of my head" songs. We figure that the record companies are losing 5 Kabillion USD per day to people enjoying others sing their favorite tunes...not to mention least favorite. This will include humming as well as not knowing the correct words, but having the melody correct.

    IBM is already working on a system to track such offenders as they sing a long. The combination of facial and voice recognition will uniquely identify you and the song, so that record companies will be able to immediately draft your personalized lawsuit as soon as you utter the first few notes of the tune!

    Look for your lawsuit in the mail soon!

    I know it's only Rock-n-Roll,
    but I like it, like it
    Yes I do!

  • by bl968 ( 190792 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:09PM (#254634) Journal
    This one falls squarely under fair use as you are at the most using just a few seconds on the song not the entire song. Now if the recording industry wishes to create specific ring tones then they would have a rightful ownership of the ring tone.

    I for one am waiting for the inevitable backlash that will make corporations, evil empires, bad laws, and politicians turn and run. I for one will welcome it when it does come.

    The copyright system started out as a way to encourage production of intellectual property by making sure the person or people who "Created" it were paid for their creation. The recording industry is a promotional system and not a content creator. In plain, English the RIAA is a leech on the musical creation system. They exist to make themselves the most money possible screw the consumer and screw the artist.

    When I'm good I'm very good, when I'm bad I'm better, But when I'm evil you better run :P
  • by SlashGeek ( 192010 ) <petebibbyjr&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:16AM (#254635)
    The record industry has announced today that it may be loosing as much as $12,000,000,000 a day due to people thinking about a song without actually paying for it. They claim that "Radio stations are largely to blame, for playing music that the listener probably does not own, but only paying royalties once" stated one RIAA official, "We need to find a way to read peoples minds, so that we can force radio stations to pay royalties on the mental music that they distribute" he also added that upcoming lawsuites may include charging royalties for singing or humming to oneself, including charging anybody who may be able to hear you singing or humming, even if they have no desire to hear how horribly you sing. Also, bystanders that may have heard your CD player as you pulled up to a traffic light will subsequently be charged. "We then intend to pursue charging aftermarket audio system manufactures because of the flagrent copyright violations that they contirbute too by allowing anyone within 500 feet to hear copyrighted music." Mr. Kissmy Ass, a lawyer for the RIAA explains, "In a public setting, like near the beach, subsequent violations can reach into the thousands"
  • Remember, when you are playing music out of a Boom Box, you are playing... Communism.

  • by achurch ( 201270 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:29PM (#254646) Homepage

    "...cell phone usage is pervasive enough that users are looking for ways to distinguish their cell phones' rings from others."

    Funny, I usually have no trouble distinguishing my phone from the others _because it's in my own fucking pocket_!

    Well, if you're in a half-empty restaurant, no big deal--the nearest cell phone other than yours will be far enough away that you can tell the difference. But imagine yourself in a train filled to 200% capacity (this is typical of Japanese trains during rush hour), so many people around you you can barely move, when you hear the sound of a cell phone ringing--loud. You'd better be able to prove it's not yours before the people around you bash your head in for the annoyance.


  • by enFox ( 203021 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:53AM (#254648)
    The music company should not be entitled to royalties here, because the mobile phone ringtones are not original copyrighted material. The people who put the ringtone codes on the internet have to work out the notes and their corresponding keystrokes, etc. The result is far from the original - no lyrics for instance. If royalties are to be charged on these, then they should also be charged on a person singing along to a song they hear on radio or a CD, after all it too is replicating (albeit, mostly poorly) the melody of the songs.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:27PM (#254654) Journal
    Actually, i heard that noise in a song. I think the phone companies deserve royalties
  • by KurdtX ( 207196 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:42PM (#254655)
    Exactly what I was going to say. They're just jumping on the bandwagon of bashing Napster so they can get in good with the record companies. A smart move for them, they must really be grasping at straws to find work if it has to come down to this.

    Of course, we could think of them as a public service. By eliminating all distinctive rings from phones you'd have to be intelligent enough to distinquish a ring coming from your body from the one coming from the person across the table from you in order to get a phone. Sort of a built-in natural selection thing.

  • by decaying ( 227107 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:01PM (#254667) Homepage Journal
    at least then I won't hear the fucking top 40 coming through tinny little monophonic speakers...
    I think we need to upgrade phones to have full midi capability.....
    Then worry about ring tone copyright
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:07AM (#254696) Homepage

    And your counter argument iiiiiiiis?

    Incidentally, I notice that Merriam-Webster [] has (genuinely) added this to their definition of piracy:

    • 3 : the unauthorized use of another's production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright

    So we can no longer claim accurately that "software piracy" is a misnomer because the owner isn't deprived of property. Theft however still requires deprivation of an object, so I'm a pirate, but not a thief. Hurrah.

  • by screwballicus ( 313964 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @12:11AM (#254701)
    Coppin said record labels are entitled to 7.5 cents for each download of a ring tone that uses copyrighted material, but industry sources couldn't confirm that figure.

    So someone's lawyers decided that each ring is worth a value of exactly 7.5 cents. Who comes up with these figures?

    I have just now decided that each post I write on Slashdot is worth a value of exactly YOUR SOUL. Please, upon your having completed the reading of this post, return said soul to the possession of its rightful owner, with all speed. Thank you.

  • by statusbar ( 314703 ) <> on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:01PM (#254705) Homepage Journal
    What I want is to have caller-ID distinctive midi ring tones. All my friends could be assigned a MIDI riff that describes them. Then I'd know who it was BEFORE I looked at the phone!
  • by jimbojames ( 320340 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:40PM (#254710)
    When that awful phone goes off next to you, grab them by the scruff of the neck and exclaim:
    "YOU HEARTLESS SOD!! My Grandfather wrote that ditty and died a penniless alcoholic because of heartless pirates like you, YOU!!!"
    {Break into false uncontrollable sobbing}
    ---------------------------------------- ------
  • by ClassExport ( 323284 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:21PM (#254711)
    First off IANAL.

    Secondly, how much of a song does a phone have to play before it becomes copyright infringement? A bar? A chorus?

    If they're referring to the playing of theme songs on phones, does copyright still count even if the phone doesn't contain all (or even most) of the song?

    If it does, I think I might just go copyright a few bars of music, and wait for the $$ to roll in..

  • by Zeio ( 325157 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:09PM (#254712)
    I can not believe that time is wasted with this sort of thing. Someone actually wasted the time to fester about who gets the proceeds and royalties for the cacophonous blips that emanate from a cellphone.

    This sort of continual ranting and raving about who own what makes people like me, and most of the "little people" populace want to go out and steal everything in sight. At least I do. Its cathartic to think that my actions may in some way violate some injunction a bastard lawyer crafted.

    This is the beginning of the end in the way of copyright law abuse. To think, some day, this horrible lawyer type will look at his kid sticking his quarters into a playschool wind up music box to hear the music so the record labels run by people formerly known as humans can glom a royalty.

    I like to see audiophiles stashing away thousands of SHN files - they make nice MP3s and music CDs. The over-regulation of music is like the banning of sex and drugs, didn't work to well, and it wont for the rock and roll either. Just like prohibition created the mafia, this kind of crap just promotes boot legging.

    I hope that people can stop focusing on what they are losing and start adding value to things. Try a CD with some words printed on it or some lyrics. And I wont be wasting airtime trying to quip clips of copyrighted music on a device which currently has no mass storage.
  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:10AM (#254713) Homepage
    (why is the article in the "funny" category btw?)

    We've definitively paid royalties on these a long time already in Norway, but it's very little. But principally of course, it should be illegal to claim ownership of something that is so small it can be sent as an SMS message.

    Hmm. Perhaps this is why the melody is often just a little different. I thought it was just people with no ears who made these things, but perhaps it's deliberate to avoid having to pay royalties.

    Hey, what if i write a string quartet which includes a chromatic scale? Can I sue everyone who uses a chromatic scale?

    C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# H C or as you say
    C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C
  • by aabcehmu ( 444370 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:40PM (#254720)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the actual timbre and dynamics of the individual notes in a ring tone are identical. So if there are twelve tones in a octave, and we count the insertion of rests, there are finitely many possible combinations of notes and spaces, seeing as the notes themselves are undifferentiated in any aspect but pitch and duration. And, compared to the total number of combinations of possible sounds (which for all intents and purposes is infinite), this number is rather small. Seen in this light, the argument that some of these are protected works of creativity, capable of being--nay, supposed to be--charged for seems absolutely absurd! Ring tones are lifeless blips and bleeps, despicable apings of real music. Every time I hear Fur Elise monotonously oscillated out of a purse or a pocket I feal like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, strapped down with shunts in my eyes screaming "Its a sin!-using Beethoven like that!" And they have the gall to want to charge us for it. Not Beethoven of course, he's been dead too long for them to wrench any money from his carcass, but probably something worse. moc.nogatnep-eht@umhecbaa
  • by allrong ( 445675 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:12PM (#254723) Homepage
    If the RIAA could find a way to monitor our thoughts we'd probably have to pay royalties on every tune that goes through our heads! :)

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.