Ringtone royalties are music to these ears

This splendid idea inexplicably managed to raise a ruckus right before the holiday weekend: Every time a musical ringtone plays in public -- suggests the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers -- 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 doing. And, ASCAP apparently has more than enough attorneys on retainer to put some teeth behind the billings.

As for $1,000 being too steep: Vibrate stays free, people, vibrate says free.

Another pair of deadline-extending dodges

A recent item about the Web site Corrupted-Files.com had one reader reaching deep into the memory bank for a similar tale that also deserves sharing.

Corrupted-Files, if you missed it, sells unreadable Word, Excel and PowerPoint files to students and others who in turn submit them to professors, bosses or clients in the hope that the files won't be opened -- and "the problem" discovered -- until they have had a chance to actually finish that term paper or work project.

Writes Bob McNally of Worcester, Mass.:

"Your 'More than the files are corrupted' post brought back memories of years long past. In the '80s I was doing contract programming in Z80 assembler for a company that manufactured teller terminal systems.

"When a project was running behind and the customer needed a delivered system, there was a manager who would write a letter for the delivery of the software. He would then staple the 5.25 inch floppy diskette to the letter and mail it to the customer. When the customer called about the disk with the staple through it he would apologize about 'the secretary that keeps doing that' and promise to send a new disk immediately.

"If the software was ready they would get a diskette with the updated software. If he needed to buy a few more days, another diskette would be prepared by inserting a small piece of double-stick tape into the floppy so that it would not spin when inserted into the drive. A second letter and the diskette would be mailed to the customer. ... This guy could stretch a delivery date by a couple of weeks easily!"

This story, "Ringtone royalties are music to these ears" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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