Ringtone Ruling Rocks Publishing Industry

Earlier this week, the United States Copyright Office ruled that ringtones should be subject to a compulsory licensing structure. The move was cheered by the Recording Industry Association of America for “affording record companies and ringtone providers the ability to move new offerings quickly and easily to consumers” by giving them a simple way to license both the master recording and underlying composition, but the National Music Publishers’ Association and the Harry Fox Agency are calling foul.

In a statement released via the HFA’s website on Wednesday, the agency stated that it “flatly refused to honor the Copyright Office ruling.” What’s at issue is the interpretation of Section 115 of the Copyright Act, specifically whether it covers ringtones or mastertones. In the face of the Copyright Office’s ruling, Harry Fox is standing firm behind the argument that it does not. “HFA has not issued and is not issuing ringtone or mastertone licenses under the compulsory license provisions of Section 115….Acting in conjunction with NMPA, HFA is currently evaluating legal options with respect to the Register’s decision.”

—MS