Copyright in Ringtone and its Violation



Copyright in ringtone – in earlier days there was no concept of ringtone. But with the progress in technology and advent of electronic gadgets, today this is ringtone is quite significant. It has become so significant that any unauthorized circulation of it affects the economic returns of the underlying music and tune. There comes the issue of violation of copyright in ring tone.  Ringtone is a derivative work of music composition and tune. If you use a portion of the music as ringtone in your personal mobile, most likely it would not attract any penalty qualifying as Fair Use. But if you choose to make it available through your website and you earn from such website, you are infringing the copyright in ringtone.  Get connected with Copyright Lawyer for right advices.


Amendment in Copyright Act

The Copyright Act of 1957 was significantly amended vide Copyright (Amendment) Act of 2012. Reason behind such amendments to the Copyright Act, 1957 is to accommodate two WIPO internet treaties, namely the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (“WPPT”).   This two WIPO treaties aims to protect the Music and Film Industry and address its concerns; address the concerns of the physically disabled and protecting the author’s interests; incidental changes; removing operational facilities; and enforcement of rights.


This  amendments to the Copyright Act in 2012 is an extension of copyright protection in the digital environment, addressing technological progress across all medium and  call for penalties for circumvention of technological protection measures and rights management information, the liability of internet service providers and introduction of statutory licenses for cover versions and broadcasting organizations; ensuring the right to receive royalties for authors, and music composers, exclusive economic and moral rights to performers, equal membership rights in copyright societies for authors and other right owners and exception of copyrights for physically disabled to access any works.

 Role of Copyright Societies in the Music Industry

Primary role of Copyright Societies is to collect royalties for the use of music and lyrics. But before Copyright Amendment Act, 2012, these societies actually worked against the interest of the Music Industry and became a money minting machine for the record labels only.

These 2012 Amendments marked the beginning of revamped way to collect royalties and the division of royalties collected amongst the stake holders.  Most importantly, even when the work was a part of a cinematographic film and sound recording, the right of persons to claim royalties could not be waived. Author’s right to have equal share was recognized and any contrary agreement declared invalid.


Thus the ringtone is also protected under Copyright and punishments are there for its infringements. The personal use may come under Fair Use but website hosting ringtone directly or indirectly through links can actually land in trouble, if not done with prior permission or license.


Article by Swarupa Ghosh Law Chamber

Date: 23.12.2022