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Creating ringtones for iPhone from a PC

iPhone RingtonesI have a new iPhone 4- a different OS from my previous mobile phone. I’ve loaded on new content and apps and now want some custom ringtones.

Rather than purchase ringtones derived from my favourite songs, I decided to make my own. I decided I was going to share the process here on my blog in case, like me, you were an iPhone user with a PC and thus didn’t have Garage Band (which apparently does this easily for you).

But then I became concerned as to whether or not creating ringtones from legally purchased music was illegal. I’m not going to sell or share the resulting ringtone. I’m using it solely for my own use.

Legal or not?

I could not find any Australian sites with information on this, so I sought out information relating to the precedent-setting Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). While being vague about it, the RIAA is quoted (according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation web site) as saying that burning a copy of copyrighted music “won’t usually raise concerns so long as the copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own and the copy is just for your personal use.”

This would seem to suggest what I’ve done is okay. However, by grabbing just a portion of the song to use as the ring tone, I’ve made a derivative work. True, it’s a derivative work made from legally purchased music and the derivative is solely for my own use — but is it legal?

According to a 2007 engadget article written by copyright attorney Nilay Patel, thanks to the RIAA seeking a decision from the copyright office, ring tones are NOT considered derivative works. Therefore, I am merely transferring legally purchased music from one device to another, which the RIAA says ‘won’t usually raise concerns’.

So, taking this into consideration, I feel comfortable in sharing how to create a derivative from a legally purchased file. It’s up to you whether you feel comfortable in doing so. If you find anything that says it is illegal, please leave a comment.

I’ve also read that music you purchase from the iTunes store has DRM info that prevents you from creating your own ringtones. I used the below steps with a legally purchased CD.

How to create ringtones for iPhone from a PC

  1. rip your CD
  2. download the very latest BETA version of Audacity (at this writing, 1.3.13) from
  3. download  the ffmpeg for Audacity file from the Audacity manual wiki web site (note, full ffmpeg from did NOT work)
  4. install both Audacity and ffmpeg
  5. open Audacity, go to libraries, browse computer to where you have ffmpeg for Audacity, find the .dll file you need (described on Audacity wiki)
  6. load in your song and edit it
  7. export file as a .m4a AAC file
  8. right click and change file extension to .m4r
  9. import file into iTunes library
  10. connect iPhone, drag file to ringtones folder of iPhone

Save as M4A