US Copyright Office agitates publishers over statutory licences for ringtones

November 2006

Record labels, music publishers

The US Copyright Office has ruled that ringtones qualify as digital phonorecord deliveries and as a result they fall under compulsory license provisions. Under section 115 of the USCopyright Act, the Copyright Royalty Board can now determine royalty rates for these tones. This means that labels can offer ringtone operators the mater rights and the publishing rights as a single package and labels will be able to avoid lengthy licensing negotiations with publishers. Whilst the Recording Industry Association of America welcomed the news, the National Music Publishers’ Association was quick to attack the Copyright Office’s decision. It argues that this “represents an unprecedented broadening of the compulsory licence for musical works” and could damage songwriters and copyright owners who were previously able to negotiate licences in the free market but are now subject to government regulation.

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