Federal judge Denise Cote has dealt a blow to the music industry’s American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) with a new ruling that ringtones are not considered public performances and therefore aren’t subject to music royalty fees. Yes, that means the ASCAP was seeking to collect a royalty fee every time a musical ringtone went off in some pocket or purse.
The ruling states that ringtone plays are not considered public performances because it’s impossible for the carrier to determine when a ringtone plays. It’s also impossible to determine if a ringtone play meets the requirements for being a public performance – any performance held before a “substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of its social acquaintances is gathered.”
How you feel about the music industry’s strategies to boost revenues isn’t important. What’s important is that this ruling sets a solid precedent against some of the music industry’s more “creative” royalty schemes. According to Mashable, ASCAP also wants to charge a royalty fee on 30-second song previews. Judge Cote’s decision could very well put a wrench in that plan.
On the one hand, artists should be compensated for the hard work they put into their music. On the other hand, the music industry might do better to re-evaluate their royalty-based business model.