This appeared in InformationWeek Daily, 5/24/2001:
Ah, there's nothing quite like the harbingers of spring: mercury rising, flowers blooming, birds singing the dulcet tones of ... "Dixieland"? It seems nature is heeding Nokia's call. Some birds are adding mobile-phone ring tones to their repertoire. "You don't believe it the first time you hear it," says Nicolaj Nielsen, a business analyst at Denmark-based Strand Consult, who has witnessed birds mimicking mobile phones. "It's quite funny." But it's not surprising, says Andrew South of the United Kingdom-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who's heard similar reports. Starlings borrow about 10% of their songs from other sounds like doorbells and police sirens. And they have a penchant for phones, having long ago picked up the warbling tones that replaced most phones ringing the United Kingdom. "They're just catching up with modern technology," South says. There's no environmental impact associated with this phenomenon, he says--other than the frustration that might arise when someone lunges for a phone and finds the caller perched in a tree. Still, there's the threat of noise pollution, as phone users increasingly download snippets of pop music for ring tones. What if birds develop an affinity for, say, Britney Spears? Says South: "They should be shot." - Sandra Swanson
This followed a related article that appeared on 4/25/2001:
As if the music industry doesn't already have its share of digital headaches, it may have a new source of potential copyright infringement to contend with: cell-phone ring tones. A British Internet monitoring startup calls the downloading of musical ring tones "another Napster in the making" and says the industry may be losing more than $1 million a day in related royalties.
Envisional Ltd., which sells software and services for monitoring intellectual-property rights violations online, discovered the potential infringement while doing an MP3-related research project for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Co-founder and chief operating officer Ben Coppin says the company decided to pursue the ring-tone research on its own. By configuring its software to search for indicators that a site offers ring-tone downloads and then identify the related files, Coppin says the company found hundreds of sites that each are enabling hundreds of thousands of downloads of musical ring tones daily.
Coppin says record labels are entitled to 7.5 cents for each download of a ring tone that uses copyrighted material, but industry sources couldn't confirm that figure. Envisional arrived at its estimate of potential losses based on analyst research indicating that very few of the sites in question are paying the required royalties. Coppin says he considers his firm's estimate to be "rough," but adds that "our feeling is that it's fairly conservative." He says Envisional has had discussions with multiple, well-known music labels about taking the research further.
Webnoize Inc. analyst Ric Dube says customized ring tones are becoming big business, particularly in Asia and other regions where cell phone usage is pervasive enough that users are looking for ways to distinguish their cell phones' rings from others. The downloading of copyrighted ring tones, Dube says, could present a revenue opportunity for the labels.
Meanwhile, Gartner analyst P.J. McNealy says concerns surrounding musical ring tones aren't about to take on the magnitude of file sharing, at least not until streaming technologies allow actual recordings--rather than tunes made up of simple tones--to be effectively downloaded for use with cell phones. "I don't see the [Recording Industry Association of America] launching a round of lawsuits," says McNealy. "They have bigger targets right now."