Your Phone Number Touch Tones Are Copyrighted!
October 4, 2001 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Your Phone Number Touch Tones Are Copyrighted! Not to mention the touch tone sequence to just about any other phone number you'll ever dial. You've got two choices: a) Pay a licensing fee, or b) throw all your telecommunications equipment away.

Brilliant. Wish I had thought of it.
posted by (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Lol, they'll have a really hard time getting a penny out of the baby Bells, since they're the ones that control the phone numbers. BTW it's a hoax.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:16 PM on October 4, 2001

Right on HoldenCaulfield...After all, if this was possible, i'm sure it would have been done a LONG time ago by one of the Bells
posted by jmd82 at 4:18 PM on October 4, 2001

You mean you don't think they're serious? No, they must be. And I can't imagine that they'll have any trouble at all enforcing this.
posted by moss at 4:26 PM on October 4, 2001 have the copyright on the =( and :( btw, careful in your e-mails guys and gals..
posted by Mossy at 4:36 PM on October 4, 2001

You can only copyright creative works, anyway. Recordings of every possible phone number rendered in Touch-Tone® wouldn't qualify, I don't think, since it requires no particular talent to execute. The "work" being protected is more in the line of a compilation. There used to be a "sweat of the brow" doctrine that allowed collections of commonplace facts to be copyrighted based on the effort involved in compiling them, but that was thrown out some time ago. (I was once involved in a court case in which this issue came up.)

It's a cute culture hack, to be sure, but it merely further serves to confuse intellectual property issues among the lay public, who lack a solid understanding of them to begin with.
posted by kindall at 4:37 PM on October 4, 2001

Ring, ring... ring, ring...

"Hello, Lay Public? What's your mother's phone number?"

"What the...? 345 6789."

"Sorry, that one's copyright. She'll need a licence fee."

"I'm so confused!"
posted by rory at 4:59 PM on October 4, 2001

Nigel Helyer will be assassinated before any case goes to court.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 5:41 PM on October 4, 2001

Indeed, the Web site is already gone.
posted by jjg at 6:05 PM on October 4, 2001

You can only copyright creative works, anyway. Recordings of every possible phone number rendered in Touch-ToneĀ® wouldn't qualify, I don't think, since it requires no particular talent to execute.

Actually, I thought one very nice touch to the site (which was beautifully executed overall) was the way they actually presented it so that it almost made sense as just a particularly modern and mathematical composition.

Sure, the whole thing will confuse some people, but I say it's worth it for the entertainment value.

(ooh... and at last, posts by me and Mossy in the same thread... I should have copyrighted my name. ;)
posted by moss at 6:12 PM on October 4, 2001

Its not about confusing the public, its a clever criticism of copyright and IP laws.

... with the side effect of confusing the public, for whom IP issues are already hazy. Even among the cognoscenti here at MeFi, for instance, it's none too clear -- witness Mossy's statement that had copyrighted ":(" when in fact that's claimed to be a trademark.

Of course, further confuses the issue by joking that they're going to sue anyone who uses the emoticon in e-mail, when a trademark doesn't give them any such right, any more than Nike can stop you from using the word "Nike" in your e-mail. That is a copyright power, and they don't have a copyright. What a trademark would allow them to do is to prevent a business from competing directly with them using that symbol as their logo.
posted by kindall at 6:16 PM on October 4, 2001

Yeah the site is gone, but even when it was up, clicking on the license agreement would bring up the not found page. Any theories why they're down? Hacked my 31337 corporate hax4ors from the Bells and Telcos?
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 7:36 PM on October 4, 2001

.... since it requires no particular talent to execute.

Well, hell, if that were a requirement, then none of N'Sync's songs would be covered by copyright, either.
posted by webmutant at 9:37 PM on October 4, 2001

Back around April 1st in 1998, a couple of us set up something similar -- a bogus website called: The ICRegistry (The Internet Color Registry). It purported to be a database where one could register, reserve, or verify the status of individual hexidecimal "color codes" (eg: #FFFF00 = yellow). It stated:

The ICRegistry(tm), in concert with the major browser manufacturers, has been registering exclusive rights to specific color codes (ie: VCD's or Vanity Color Domains) since early 1997. Along with sole legal ownership, the registrant is allowed to select an appropriate name and dictate its usage. Although the registrant is free allow others to use their VCD (in the construction of web pages and so forth) this permission CANNOT be assumed nor is it granted without the prior and explicit written consent of said registrant.

We set up a realistic registration procedure and sent out pseudo-legalistic threat letters to webmasters across the country (telling them our scanning bots found illegal colors being used on their sites). Of course, many were hip to the gag immediately. More figured it out after a moment's reflection -- but a genuinely startling large number of them sent me serious requests for further information about bringing their sites into legal compliance. I even got royally reemed by some goober who finally figured out he didn't really own the rights to a certain shade of green. Astounding.

On the plus side, if was immediately noticed by the grepmeister himself, and I earned a place on Kibo's 1998 HappyNet Manifesto
posted by RavinDave at 12:23 AM on October 5, 2001

Another problem, at least under US Law -- Copyright only applies to "original works of authorship." Seeing as how these touch tone "songs" have been around for many, many years, and these guys aren't even trying to claim that they came up with the songs independently, their copyrights wouldn't stand up (I don't even think they would pass the very loose US registration standards).

And even if they registrations were valid, there's still a huge fair use hurdle to get over. Interesting food for thought, but very little basis in IP reality.

posted by IPLawyer at 11:35 AM on October 6, 2001

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