Don’t be a jerk about ringtones


Ringtones I was excited to learn that Ringtones were now a part of iTunes. I thought it would be great if I could mash up some stuff in GarageBand, or shoot, even my current iTunes tracks, and easily get them on my iPhone. I hurriedly downloaded my new copy of iTunes to get this ability to work. So I right click on my Vanilla Ica song and I’m told I can’t create this ringtone because it isn’t available. Wha? I own this song! I bought the CD and imported it. Its mine, not AT&T’s or Apple’s. Mine, and yes of course I share it with the Vanilla Ice and their label. Other than that, it shouldn’t cost me a thing to throw this on my $599 iPhone. Secondly, if I can buy the whole song for a buck, why would I want 30 seconds of it for the same price?

In short, Apple and AT&T, stop being jerks about ringtones. Sure, I get that we as a society probably don’t want to hear an individual’s bad chop job of Ice Ice Baby. While I appreciate your efforts to protect ourselves from ourselves we are still in the land of the free. As in freedom to do what we want within the laws that bind us. This case, however is a blatant attempt at capitalist extremism. Gruber says it best:

“Yes, this might have further antagonized Apple’s already-contentious relationship with the music labels (and with the entertainment media conglomerates in general; cf. NBC), but the reason these relationships are rocky is that the executives running these companies are stubborn fools who are only willing to consider ways to keep things the way they were, and who hold their own customers in utter contempt. You can’t reason with the masterminds behind “ringles”.”

Guys, you’ve been blazing the trail and getting these old hats to see the future the way we want it. Why ruin the song with this dance? It seems like this took a significant more amount of logistics and infrastructure to put out ring tones than needed. So, let us do what we want with what we already have. If I feel like it is worth a buck I can just buy the ring tone. Take my dollar in that case, otherwise let me enjoy what those dollars already provided me.



Every phone I’ve owned for the past 7 years (Nokia, SE, Samsung, Motorola) allowed me to use any sound file as I had in my phone as a ringtone, no questions asked. Why aren’t the music labels going after these companies then?

Another Robert

On the same subject, why cant I use bluetooth to transmit my music to my bluetooth headphones or my Sync enabled car? It’s not a public performance by any means, but my iPhone will not do it! And why can I not send or recieve original photos via bluetooth either? I have friends who are photographers, but I cant share any of my photos without emailing them! You know what they always say, “one bad apple spoils the whole bag”. That is why I am going back to a Windows Mobile device asap!


I really don’t think that Apple is being a jerk about ring tones, it’s just sad that the record companies feel they can get away with charging us for a ring tone. Especially when we’ve already bought the whole thing! Do they think that the song is somehow different just because it’s a ring tone? We already bought the darn thing once, we should be able to chop it up and do what we want with it i.e. ring tones. If you argue that altering it as a ring tone violates the user agreement then you can shove it! If letting my friend listen to my iPod is illegal then surely we are all criminals.


What you don’t get is if you buy ringtones from anyone other than Apple you have to pay close to 3 bucks for the same 30 second snipplet. I agree its stupid to make you pay the same price for a 30 second snipplet when you can get the full song for the same price, but look at it from Apples position they can’t go to these guys who are getting 3x more per ringtone and ask to let them charge us 50 cents, now they’d be making 6x less. The prices will lower eventually, but those greedy bastards at the music companies won’t let us do it anytime soon.


It’s just sad to see Apple having to play bitch. Thanks for the howto. I run my own rintones. I just hate to have to dance around to get something so trivial done.


@ Ron

Why not just convert thise mp3/wav ringtones to AAC format and then use one of the many free utilities such as Ambrosia’s to get the ring tone onto your iPhone. It’s a loop hole that Apple has left open.

Oh and remember that apple needs the music labels to keep the ITMS open so there has to be some connessions from Apple at the contract meetings. Otherwise the Music Labels may pull their cataogs and there would be music for no one. If Apple could have left the option open to doit in iTunes then fine but because Apple runs a music store they can’t. Those other phone manufacturers probably didn’t have to deal with the music labels like apple does so they don’t have to play by the music industry’s rules.


The issue for me is that they have tried to cripple me from using ringtones I have made myself (voice or sound) or ones I have already purchased as an mp3/wav somewhere elese. It’s not like this would be a groundbreaking feature. Everyphone I have ever owned in the last 8 or so years allowed me to do this. And this I am afraid, IS on Apple.

Marc Palmer

It’s almost certainly a contractual issue with iTunes content providers. The contract details how Apple can and can’t make money out of the tracks.

Either a contract addendum will need to be signed, or some waiver/checkbox ticked in the iTunes content management to enable ringtone rights for the track.

It’ll come, just wait. However Apple can’t force artists to allow their works to be used in this way, some may just not want it, and some might just never be bothered to tick the box.


I think people are forgetting what they are paying for.

– 128kbps is definitely *not* CD quality.
– A downloaded song has no manufacturing costs as an actual CD (is being produced once, downloaded thousands of times, in contrast with a CD which each cost some money to be produced). Also you get no printed artwork, lyrics etc.
– CDs can be played in every CD player, while digital downloads can be played with certain software, specific operating systems, and in a limited range of computers (iTunes allows up to 5, I think)

(The only advantage that comes to my mind is that you can only buy one song and not entire albums)

So, we are presented with a product that is far inferior to what we previously has (audio CDs), and with many more limitations.
Even worse, while we think we can use it in our new computer (iPhone) as we wish, we have to pay again for a 30-second ringtone.

Removal of DRM from some of iTunes downloads was a step forward. Ringtone tax for already bought songs is two steps backwards.


Matt, no offense taken. Here’s the wording straight from ASCAP…”A public performance is one that occurs “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.” A public performance also occurs when the performance is transmitted by means of any device or process (for example, via broadcast, telephone, or other means) to the public. In order to perform a copyrighted work publicly, the user must obtain performance rights from the copyright owner or his representative.”

Matt Radel

@Paul: I don’t buy it. So if I own the CD and play it in my car with the windows down where other people could hear me, am I violating my usage rights? What about sitting outside, where neighbors might hear? Will I get busted there too? Am I the only person that’s allowed to use that music? Where’s the cutoff?

Ugh…I’m so sick of legality. What I’ve always loved about Apple is their simplicity, and nonsense like this just takes them in the opposite direction. I don’t really blame Apple, as I’m sure the record companies are insane. But crap like this is why I don’t spend my money on things. Is a custom ringtone really worth the hassle? I don’t think so.

BTW, I don’t mean any disrespect Paul, I’m just fed up with this stuff!


When you buy a CD or a song, you purchase a license to use that media for personal use. What most people either don’t realize or choose to forget is that you DO NOT have permission to use that music for anything you want.

For example, you can’t use the music for a public performance. If you were to synchronize some photos to a song and show the product in public, you are using that music as an original performance. You need to purchase special licensing rights to show this slideshow. It may sound odd, but the music industry sees ringtones in much the same way. When you receive a call in public and 30 seconds of your favorite song plays as your ringtone, you’ve just given a public performance. You need to purchase a license for this performance and that’s where the extra 99 cents comes in to play.
Don’t blame Apple, they’re trying to work within the confines of the licensing restrictions placed on them by the recording industry. The single fee for the ringtone is probably the best compromise available to them. Imaging the hassle if you had to pay a licensing fee every time you got a phone call!


Apple is not being a jerk about ringtones, Apple must maintain good relationships with the content providers. Being that Apple is only a distrubitor they must sometimes cater to the Music cartel otherwise they risk losing content on the iTunes store.

People are blaming apple for charging to make ringtones but any other cell phone provider would have you doing the same for more money. Yeah it sucks, why should I be forced to pay the same amount for 30 seconds of a song? But thats the music industry.

Before you go and get all hot and bothered over being charged for a ringtone look at all the options currently, look who is forcing you to pay the money (hint its the one who has the most to gain) and then blame them.

Jason Terhorst

Actually, I’m of the opinion that Apple is not a jerk for not allowing you to make a ringtone of that song.

Anyone who uses Vanilla Ice (or any other music from the 80s or 90s – or any obnoxious music, for that matter) for a ringtone on their phone deserves to get the snot beat out of them in public. In fact, Apple should have made only two options: Marimba or Vibrate. That’s all.


While I agree that this is a pain in the arse and only benefits the music labels, there really is nothing we can do about it.

What I think people forget when they buy music, TV shows, movies, software and anything else published… we don’t own them. We can’t do anything we want with them, other than their intended purpose. Up till now they could relinquish that right on command, but in today’s digital age they can and can enforce those rights.

I’m not siding with them; but it is a fact that i don’t think we are going to get around anytime soon. I don’t think this is Apple. It’s not good business for Apple to say “you can’t do that…,” but it is equally bad business to have the media creators and publishers deciding to stop doing business with Apple.

Apple’s solutions, call them compromises, have allowed us to have a store with millions of songs digitally available at a price we are willing to pay. They’ve allowed to to carry all those tunes in our iPods and now iPhones. Had Apple had a choice i think they would have gone with just allowing music to be used as a ringtone, just as they allow music to be used in home movies. A right I’m sure they had to fight long and hard to get. The music publishers didn’t have a revenue stream for music in home movies; but they do for ringtones. I highly profitable one at that too.

I’m not saying don’t rock the boat, or not to Rock the Vote, for change. What I am saying is that we don’t own anything in our music collection, movie collection or software collection. We own a “right” to watch, listen or use those items. Apple doesn’t own them either and has to find ways to compromise to get what they want and think we want.

So, $0.99 for the song and $.99 to make it a ring tone ($1.98) is crazy; but it’s the same or more in other places with a TIME LIMIT on use with no control over what part of the tune plays.
Personally, I think ringtones will only be a marginal hit on the iPhone. Folks will buy a few for diversity; but not tons of them. The music industry won’t care, either way they don’t make much money; so they will go with the one that makes them some money.
It’s all about the MONEY and WHO HOLDS THE RIGHTS. We as end users, have little of either.

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