The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court Wednesday to “reject bogus copyright claims” from the music industry that could meant that you could get charged a performance fee every time your cell phone rings in public.
According to EFF:
As part of a ploy to squeeze more money out of the mobile phone companies, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) has told a federal court that each time a phone rings in a public place, the phone user has violated copyright law. Therefore, ASCAP argues, phone carriers must pay additional royalties or face legal liability for contributing to what they claim is cell phone users’ copyright infringement.
In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, EFF points out that copyright law does not reach public performances “without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage” — clearly the case with cell phone ringtones. If phone users are not infringing copyright law, then mobile phone service providers are not contributing to any infringement.
While ASCAP is targeting phone carriers, you know who would foot the bill.
“This is an outlandish argument from ASCAP,” said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. “Are the millions of people who have bought ringtones breaking the law if they forget to silence their phones in a restaurant? Under this reasoning from ASCAP, it would be a copyright violation for you to play your car radio with the window down!”
What do you think? Should musicians get a penny every time a phone rings – or should ASCAP forget about nickel and diming people and look for better ways of helping musicians make money?