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Court rules ASCAP can't seek ringtone royalties

updated 03:45 pm EDT, Thu October 15, 2009

Ringtones not considered performances

A Southern District of New York federal court yesterday ruled (PDF) that ringtones don't constitute performances and so are exempt from separate royalties. The decision by Judge Denise Cote rejects beliefs by royalty group ASCAP that the carrier is responsible for royalties for any ringtone played in public and grants the complainant Verizon a summary judgment that the only valid royalty is the original for the music file itself.

Judge Cote concludes in the ruling that the only role of a cellular service like Verizon is to transfer the file to the phone and that it can't be held responsible for where and when the ringtone is played. Customers for the ringtones are also exempt as they never profit from playing their ringtones in public.

The finding potentially sets the groundwork for a reversal of $5 million in payments Verizon has made to ASCAP to temporarily resolve their dispute and also sets a legal precedent that may thwart attempts by ASCAP to collect royalties on song samples under similar conditions.

ASCAP has tried to significantly expand its reach in recent months by contending that any digital audio playback in public constitutes a performance. Critics, including representatives for Apple and other music store operators, have accused the association of 'double dipping' by trying to collect royalties twice on every song; they have also challenged that ASCAP is trying to compensate for a perceived shift away from broadcasts and concerts towards personal listening at home and in MP3 players.

by MacNN Staff



  1. apple4ever

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Great news to kill those "a**-HATS"

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Now they're going to have to find some other outlet to claim owes them performance money. I think next will be anyone who gets a song 'stuck in their head' will be required to pay a performance fee.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969



    my daughter sometimes sings along to the radio, I guess ascap will be coming after me next.

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