The rights to ring should be preserved

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sometimes I’ll be sitting in a restaurant, enjoying a meal, when suddenly it sounds like Snoop Dogg decided to come and have dinner beside me.

Or, I’ll be shopping in the grocery store, and have to think twice to realize that Miley Cyrus isn’t really filling up her cart one aisle over.

With cell phone’s abilities to play more musical ring tones, I’m sure that scenario rings true for all.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Whether it’s Garth Brooks playing a tune in your own pocket or the guy walking his dog next to you on the street, you likely know those musical sounds all too well.

But, what I bet you didn’t know is that you actually were witnessing (or performing) a public performance.

At least that’s what the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers said when the company filed a suit against AT&T, claiming every time a musical ring tone goes off in public “it is obviously a performance.”

And, it’s a performance ASCAP claims is a violation of a copyright law. In this suit, the group insists cell phone carriers not only should have to pay the downloading fees they already do for ring tones, but they need to pay additional royalties for when those songs make their public debuts — by ringing.

I’ve been guilty of letting my “Killing Me Softly” Fugees ring tone go off in public. I’ve been guilty of singing along, and occasionally (when I’m by myself) I’ll even do a little dance to go along with it.

But, what I have not been guilty of, ASCAP, is serving as the liaison for musical performances. At least I’d like to believe I haven’t.

Sure, ring tones can be annoying in public. They can be distracting in places they shouldn’t ring.

But, having a phone in public, period, is a distraction. It’s a distraction, though, I think we all have the right to place upon ourselves.

Those who choose to put musical songs as their ring tones already pay for them. Why should we be charged more for the 15-second clip?

Why should we be charged, even further, for giving the music industry a little bit of advertising?

There are plenty of battles ASCAP could choose to pick, but this is one that needs to be dropped.

In the spirit of the holiday, ASCAP, “Let freedom ring.”

*A copy of the lawsuit for this column was found from a blog, Telephony Online.

Holli Keaton is news editor of The Messenger. She can be reached via email at