The craze for downloading pop tunes to use as ringing tones on mobile phones could be depriving the music industry of £700,000 a day in royalties, it was claimed yesterday.
The internet monitoring company Envisional said the fad was robbing recording artists of their intellectual property rights and could cost them as much as the Napster website. Envisional found more than 1,400 websites charging up to £3 a time to download ringing tones such as the theme from Mission Impossible, Music by Madonna or Stan by Eminem.
But only a few paid any royalties to the record companies that own the copyright. With more than 24 million mobile phones in Britain, and a craze for downloading tones sweeping school playgrounds and offices, the music industry is considering legal action.
The issue is expected to become even more important later this year when the next generation of mobile phones – which allow snatches of radio-quality music to be downloaded rather than the bleepy electronic tunes currently available – go on sale.