Freedom to Ring

Previously I had mentioned an “interesting” case about American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers asserting that when somebody’s cell phone’s musical ringtone sounds in a public place, they are infringing copyrights.  Here is the update about the case from EFF:

A federal court yesterday firmly rejected that argument, ruling that “when a ringtone plays on a cellular telephone, even when that occurs in public, the user is exempt from copyright liability, and [the cellular carrier] is not liable either secondarily or directly.”

The ruling is an important victory for consumers, making it clear that playing music in public, when done without any commercial purpose, does not infringe copyright. That’s thanks to Section 110(4) of the Copyright Act, which exempts public performances undertaken “without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage.” In the words of the court, “customers do not play ringtones with any expectation of profit.” This ruling should also protect consumers who roll down their car windows with the radio on, who take a radio to the beach, or who sing “Happy Birthday” to their children in a public park.

Long live the right to whistle, sing and roll down your car windows!!!

Frontiers of Permission Culture

A few days after the (please put your indecent adjective here) decision of a U.S. jury in a federal retrial to penalize Jammie Thomas-Rasset with $1.92 Million for 24 songs she downloaded from internet (for those of you who are not good with numbers that makes $80,000 per song), the copyright industry seems to seek new frontiers for creating their own “permission culture” and a new revenue source (Baruh 2006; Lessig 2004).  They think that every time your phone rings in public is publicly performing without a license to publicly perform the copyrighted material. Electronic Frontiers Foundation Reports:

ASCAP (the same folks who went after Girl Scouts for singing around a campfire) appears to believe that every time your musical ringtone rings in public, you’re violating copyright law by “publicly performing” it without a license. At least that’s the import of a brief [2.5mb PDF] it filed in ASCAP’s court battle with mobile phone giant AT&T.

This will doubtless come as a shock to the millions of Americans who have legitimately purchased musical ringtones, contributing millions to the music industry’s bottom line  (full story)

In an effort to make a guess about what can come next, I propose the following newspaper headline:

Commuter Train Pirate Caught and Punished

(May 12, 2014, Associated Press) Lemi Baruh was sentenced to pay $80,000 in royalties for whistling Linkin Park’s “Given Up” in a commuter train. The jury also asked that Lemi Baruh agree not to whistle ever again…

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