A federal court ruled yesterday that mobile phone carriers do not need to pay copyright performance royalties for the ringtones their customers choose to legally download and use. The ruling is a win for consumers and precisely the result that CDT, EFF, and Public Knowledge urged in an amicus brief filed earlier this year. Contrary to the performance-rights organization ASCAP's strained assertions, the court ruled, "When a ringtone plays on a cellular telephone, even when that occurs in public, the user is exempt from copyright liability, and [carriers are] not liable." In other words, neither you nor your cellular phone company owe ASCAP a few pennies every time your phone bursts into Raffi's Bananaphone.
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