Mobile ringtones sound Web alert
By Lia Timson
British intellectual copyright lawyer Clare Griffiths said: "Copyright in the
music will be infringed by taking a 'substantial part' of a musical work. The
most recognisable melody of a song, even if it is only 10 seconds out of three
minutes, could be substantial copying."
She added: "The moral rights of a songwriter may also be infringed through the
derogatory treatment of their work -- having a beautiful melody reduced to a
ringtone could be seen as damaging to the integrity of the music."
She also warned that not only the companies offering the music but the
downloaders themselves may be legally liable as they were creating a copy on
"Also, is the song being broadcast or performed when the phone rings, especially
in a public place, further infringing the rights of the copyright owner?"
Typical charges for a download are $1.50 to $3.50 (£1 - £2.50) and yet the
royalty payments required are small by comparison -- five percent, typically 7.5
"I don't think the amount is a problem for them," said Earle. "But with the
global reach of the Internet, copyright owners can no longer control the
He pointed to e-books being a parallel area with the latest Harry Potter book
being available in its entirety on the web on the same day it was published.
He said that the industry was trying to tackle the issue by trying to protect
intellectual property at the beginning of the cycle with watermarking and
digital rights monitoring.
Edward P. Murphy, CEO of the U.S.-based National Music Publishers' Association,
said the organisation had already received many enquiries from companies looking
to get involved in the business.
He said the association was keen that the legal situation be understood before
handsets have the ability to play full sound.
"The capabilities of these hand-held devices are going to change markedly within
the next 24 months. A hand-held device will have the ability to play music.
"We are very excited and happy about this, but we have to think about the next
step. We want to get the legal position sorted out before this happens."
He said issues of territory, tracking and auditing were all crucial. "The
problem we are hearing and seeing is that most of the organisations we have met
are not clear on their own business models, which makes things more difficult,"
Rhys Evans, a spokesman for the UK's Mechanical Copyright Protection Society,
confirmed that the problem was serious with a substantial number of unlicensed
sites and unfettered access to the Internet.
"We can only license web sites which fall within our British jurisdiction. The
problem is that anyone has a free access over the Internet to an array of
European and international sites."