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Dial 1 800 GET BENT

Every once in a while, the good guys win.

I wrote before about how the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) is suing AT&T, saying that, if people use ringtones of popular songs or even MP3's for ringtones, every time it goes off, it constitutes a public performance and they are entitled to royalties.  AT&T and the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued, "Are you nuts?  It's a ringtone, it's private amusement, not public entertainment."  The EFF, in their brief, likened the ASCAP's arugment to demanding royalties if you play your car radio with the windows down.

A couple of days ago, the judge sided with AT&T/EFF.  US District Judge Denise Cote's logic went like this -- phone companies have no way of controling when the ringtone is played, as people can switch them around or turn the ringer (or phone itself) on and off at will.  Technically, the end user is controlling when and where the phone rings.  Besides that, there is no revenue being earned when the ringtone is heard.  Furthermore, a public performance as argued by the ASCAP, by definition, takes place in a public space where a "substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of its social acquaintances is gathered."

So, the right of kids to sing songs or you to play your radio in public without headphones is safe, the Republic is preserved, and it's another key victory for digital rights.

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