A judge ruled last week that Verizon Wireless won’t be liable to pay public performance royalties when a ringtone is played in public.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) had filed suit against Verizon Wireless, as well as similar charges against AT&T, contending that operators pay royalties every time a ringtone is played in a public place.
According to Judge Denise Cote, the ring itself does not qualify as a public performance under the Copyright Act. She said Verizon already pays a mechanical fee and makes money from selling the ringtones, not from having them played. Additionally, Cotes said that the customers themselves are not intending to make a profit on their ringtones.
“Despite the accusation that Verizon enjoys revenue from publicly played ringtones, Verizon makes no revenue from the playing of ringtones, in public or elsewhere,” Cote wrote. “It makes revenue from selling ringtones, and it already pays a mechanical licensing fee in connection with those sales.”
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) applauded Cote’s ruling. In cooperation with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, CDT had filed an Amicus brief with the court back in July. In coverage of the ruling on its Web site, CDT said that the decision was a win for consumers.
“While ASCAP had made public statements that it would never go after individuals for copyright infringement, its demand for royalties from Verizon and AT&T implied that each customer was infringing copyright every time his or her phone rang, even using a ringtone that the user legally purchased,” wrote Andrew McDiarmid, policy analyst for the CDT, on the organization’s blog.
Filed Under: Industry regulations