Thursday, July 13, 2006

Our ringtones, ourselves

This story about using ringtones as self-expression is another illustration of how copying serves the production of individuality in modern society. Of course, many ringtones are licensed using a blanket scheme, so both copyright holders and cellphone holders can be happy. I wonder what would happen if it became widely known that some reviled person used a particular ringtone? Would the copyright holder revoke his/her license, and if so, could the outcast still continue using it? (I don't know whether a reproduction is made each time the ringtone is used. If not, there might not be any exclusive right implicated, unless the ringtone came from a dramatic musical work like Sweeney Todd and the phone went off in public. I don't have a ringtone, but if I did, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd would be my choice.)

Hey, that reminds me: Is a cellphone "a single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes" such that it qualifies for the homestyle exemption for public performances in sec. 110(5)? That wouldn't help me with Sweeney Todd if the ringtone is stored on my phone, but if it were transmitted to me each time by my carrier, it seems like 110(5)(A) applies.

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