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Why Are Cell Phone Ringtones So Popular?

Nov 9, 2007
Although there always seem to be a number of people who claim that cell phone ringtones blaring music is annoying and extremely distracting, they have quickly become a multi-billion dollar industry that stretches throughout the entire world. Yes, mobile ringtones is a multi-billion dollar industry. Considering that most tones are cheap in price means there are millions of people downloading them every day.

In 2007, United States consumers will pay a whopping $550 million for cell phone tones. That works out to be a 709% increase in sales since the year 2003, and it appears that this increase in sales is becoming a steady trend. These facts have been reported by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the performing rights organization, which is the group that represents 6.5 million songs that are also being downloaded as ringtones.

Now, this raises the question: Should ringtones really be free? Most people say yes, but millions more are purchasing them. Someone is certainly spending those multi-billions on cell phone tunes. Custom phone tones are not a necessity; why is there such a high demand for them?

While there is not a clear response to that question, many people are pushing to get the cell phone ringtones service free of charge. This urge for free tune downloads has caused a battle between iPhone hackers, who are currently making programs to access cell phone ringtones at no cost, and the ever-popular company Apple, who is striving to both please the consumers and the music industry by charging .99 cents for every new ringtone that is made and downloaded. Thus, there is a great battle between free and paid ringers.

While there are many people trying to get free tones, there are just as many people, such as music makers and phone carriers, who are pushing to keep phone ringtones paid. Their point of argument is that it should be illegal for customers to create cell phone ringtones because it is a violation of copyrights, and that it takes away their ability to make money. The music industry makes a tremendous amount of money in cell phone ringtones, and they would like to keep this niche profitable.

The current Fair Use provision of the copyright law explains that it is not illegal to copy a song for your personal use, like for CDs in your car. Many feel that this should also apply to cell phone ringtones, as it would be for personal use.

According to University of Utah professor Lee Hollaar, "Many feel it provides a defense for fair use, but nothing is absolute. This defense is less available when you're simply doing it to save money." Therefore, the debate on cell phone ringtones continues.

Andrew Welch, who is the president of Ambrosia Software, argues that if someone purchases a song from iTunes, they should be legally entitled to transform that song into a cell phone ringtone. If that is not the case, then people could actually end up being charged a fee for each time they make a music copy for any of their mobile music devices.

But again, as always, there is a flip side to the argument. Record labels feel that since they have to obtain a different type of license for you to use cell phone ringtones, you should have to pay a second time for your cell phone ringtone. Ultimately, it is a big argument between free and paid tones, with the music industry wanting to profit, while the consumer wants to access ringtones at no cost.
About the Author
Christine Sargaeant is a ringtone specialist. For more information, please visit her site Cell Phone Ringtones.
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