What Are the Copyright Rules for iPhone Ringtones?

Are you wondering if you can create your own iPhone ringtone without infringing copyright laws? The answer is yes, but there are some important rules to keep in mind. When it comes to creating your own ringtones, Apple and its musical partners have a different view of the law. Legally, you cannot turn an iTunes song into a ringtone without paying the extra 99 cents. The iTunes end user license agreement prohibits you from doing otherwise, and this overrides any concept of fair use.

You also cannot create ringtones with music you bought on CD or in other formats (such as MP3 files directly from the artist). However, the terms of the agreement do allow you to put iTunes music and videos other than ringtones on “up to five Apple-authorized devices” at a time, and store purchases from up to five iTunes accounts on a single device. If you are creating your own recording, then you should be in the clear as long as it is not a musical or melodic ringtone. In contrast, several music publishers and composers have opposed the idea of creating your own ringtones, saying that they are not “versions of existing songs”.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has also opposed this idea because it would mean that it would have to negotiate separately with music publishers for the recording rights to a song and the right to use part of it as a ringtone. A ringtone is not a small set of instructions that refers to the original music file you purchased.

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