Royalties for Ringtones Is a Rock-Solid Idea

This splendid idea inexplicably managed to raise a ruckus right before everyone fled for the holiday weekend: Every time a musical ringtone plays in public -- suggests the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) -- carriers should pay a royalty for the "performance," a cost that would unfortunately need to be passed along to wireless phone users.

Consumer advocates and online pundits, whipped into a lather by an unusually shortsighted Electronic Frontier Foundation, turned their amplifier dials up to eleven:

"This is an outlandish argument from ASCAP," huffed an EFF attorney. "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!"

Exactly! Let's make the "violators" pay. How does a thousand dollars per "performance" sound? ... I say it sounds better than hearing "Achy-breaky Heart" in a pokey elevator. It sounds better than another tinny version of "London Calling," which stopped being funny, oh, a few million ringtones ago. ... And don't get me started on Crazy Frog.

At a grand a pop, how long do you think it would take before diners don't forget to silence their phones in a restaurant?

How long before we can watch movies without an alternative soundtrack from the audience?

How long before run-amok ringtones don't interrupt press conferences being conducted by the leader of the free world?

Not long.

I know what you're thinking, though: How would such a punitive system ever be enforced and isn't a thousand dollars a bit harsh?

Well, if we've learned anything in recent years it's that carriers have the technology to monitor what their customers are and are not doing. And, ASCAP apparently has more than enough attorneys on retainer to put some teeth behind the billings.

As for $1000 being too steep: Vibrate stays free, people, vibrate stays free.

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