February 12, 2004
L and I have been having a disagreement recently - in the Socratic sense and not in the throwing dishes at each other sense - over CD mixes. In an age where twelve-year-olds are prosecuted for file sharing and a person can buy burned CDs on any New York City corner for five bucks, is it ethical to distribute a mix of your favorite music as a wedding favor?
People like CDs and, as recent research tells us, people like gifts. Factor in a wedding and which would you rather receive: candles shaped to look like fruit or a mix of good tunes?
As a loyal iTunes user, I've assured L that the mix would consist of songs I've either downloaded legally or bought and paid for on CD. For the record, I am wholeheartedly against the use of file-sharing networks such as LimeWire or Kazaa to download music that is otherwise available commerically.
Napster was shut down because most of the songs traded through its network were digital copies of copies with no deterioration in sound quaility that weren't paid for except perhaps by the first person who posted an album online. The granddaddy of all file-sharing services claimed that it was merely allowing friends to trade to other friends, but it's hard for people to call each other friends when they are known only as SmpsnsFan8192 or kewl_guy193.
But L and I know everyone coming to our wedding. Most of them have been our friends for ten years or more. Heck, I've known my parents for at least twenty-nine years. Where the issue doesn't sit right with L is that we'll be inviting over two hundred people to the wedding. That's a lot of CDs.
L is willing to bend, pending a successful investigation of the ethical and legal factors that divide making a mix for friends from getting busted by the RIAA. I don't think FBI agents will be spying on our wedding, waiting for the first CD to be withdrawn from a gift bag but I decided to do some homework. I'm no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I was able to get some good answers.
After posting a question on a message board, one person pointed me to the fair use doctrine which was cited in the Napster case. Judges consider the following four factors when hearing copyright disputes:
- the purpose and character of your use
- the nature of the copyrighted work
- the amount and subtantiality of the portion taken, and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market.
The first factor has to do with things such as parody and scholarship. If the purpose is to change the material and make fun of it - Chris Kattan dressing like Gollum on SNL, for example - then the courts say it's okay. Additionally, an author could write a book about Gollum's impact on European banking systems, if he were so inclined, and throw in a few quotes from The Lord of the Rings without fear of prosecution. He could not, however, photocopy Tolkien's book, call it "Frodo and Sam's Excellent Adventure," and sell it in front of an NYU dorm.
It is hard for us to meet this criteria, since we aren't changing the material by, say, writing our own lyrics. Score one for L.
Factor two, the nature of the work, gives some exception to borrowing from copyrighted material that is already widely available, as opposed to stealing a copy of Spider-Man 2 before it hits theaters. Artists, it is argued, have the right to control where and when their material shows up first. Since we are using music that has already been released, we're mostly in the clear. After two rounds, the score is tied.
Amount and substantiality is harder to qualify. Fair use says you can copy a little, so long as you don't take a lot. Clear, right? Trading "Toxic" online arguably hurts Britney Spears because as a popular single it represents a substantial part of her album. (The words "substantial" and "Britney Spears" never before appearing in the same sentence, of course.) We're not copying entire albums or even, necessarily, number one hit singles. For lack of a clear solution, let's call this one a draw.
Where I think I have the most support is with the last factor, the effect upon the potential market. With file-sharing services, the effect is clear. Why pay fourteen bucks for the new Norah Jones album when you can get it for free in four minutes online? But few, if any of our guests would otherwise purchase the music we will give them as a gift. Sorry, L, but I doubt my grandmother or or my great aunt and uncle have even heard of Nellie McKay. Independent of the deteriorating quality of modern popular music, SoundScan will not notice a significant dip in music sales in the months following our wedding.
Final score: L, one. Me, two. Admittedly, I'm biased in favor of making the mixes, so L might call for an independent interpretation of my analysis. (I'm sorry if that phrasing is confusing, but I just saw President Bush's interview on Meet the Press.)
So the floor is open. Present to me and L, in true high school debate style, your best arguments for or against CD favors at a wedding. It might be tipping the scales in my favor, but the best articulated argument will get a copy of our mix.
Posted by The Groom at February 12, 2004 07:00 PM
no 'best arguments' from me, I say just do it. You are not selling the mix as you have stated, but it is a gift.
I wasn't allowed on the debate team, so this may seem a little weak, but I say give them out. If you've legally paid (the $1) for the download, and you're not going to be re-selling the CDs to your guests, what's the harm really??
Your computer can't be tracked by what you burn (only file-share), so how are the Feds really gonna catch you, unless they're invited??
Okay, I've been following your blog for months - love it and frequently pass stories along to my boyfriend. I consider myself a bit of a wedding guest expert being that I've been to (no exaggeration) more than 15 weddings in the past two years. At the weddings involving favors the only really good favors were CDs - mostly anything else is a waste of time (other than a donation to charity) and contrary to taking away business from the artists, I've found new artists from these CDs. Actually it's inspired my to purchase CD's I might normally not have bought.
I'll vote for the candles. But not because of the debate. Only because there is also an assumption that your guests enjoy the music you put on the CD's. Which may be true for your friends, but if Grandma doesn't know who Nellie McKay is do you really think she'll like her music?
I have to agree with one of the comments above. At the many weddings I've been to lately the personalized CD was the most impressive favor. If your lady is worried about the cost point out to her that buying the CD's and cases in bulk (like from a Sam's Club or a BJ's) and burning them yourself is actually cheaper than many of the other favors out there. Candles are too common, you might as well give Jordan Almonds in tulle bundles. Even if Grandma or Aunty don't care for all the music on the CD they might like one of the songs and hey, you can always include a couple of oldies. Maybe find out what your parents or grandparents danced to at their weddings and include it as a tribute to them. You never know, you might just find it's something you really like too.
I agree with many of the aboove comments. We too made CD favors for our weddding this past May, and many people raved about it. We made sure to try to include music that not was not only recognizable by our generation, but also some classics...for exp. Frank Sinatra... with whom you can never go wrong. Alot of our friends and family were exposed to new music and artists, and quite a few ended up buying the CD's of some of the artists. So in essence, you will potentially be helping the music industry :)
I want a copy, whether or not it is the wedding favor!
I agree with D. L, give in on this one. It is a cool idea and I would argue not immoral. D bought all the songs, and it is a gift! You just posted this yesterday and you already have 5 replies. I guess people really want to see your taste in music.
The consensus in my office is that if you are not giving out copies of whole albums by these artists, and you are not profiting from the distribution, then it is perfectly allowable to use mixed cds as favors.
One person did state that perhaps you should let your guests know with a small note that all songs were purchased on itunes, etc and were not downloaded illegally.
But that feels a little too legal for a wedding favor; sort of like putting a warning label on the cake that it may affect insulin levels.
If I'm not mistaken (and I very well may be), the illegal part is the sharing not the downloading of the material. Besides, you aren't a college student, so nobody's even gonna think to look at your file-sharing activity :o) Personally, I'm not a huge fan of CD favors simply because it seems that everyone is doing that these days, but you could say the same for candles, as well. I wouldn't worry about the legality of the favor, I'd just pick which you guys think is the better favor and go with that. If you do go with the cd's, have you seen the cd-r's that look like 45's? Very cool :o)
As a music geek, nothing makes a wedding better for me than finding out I'm getting a CD to take home. Although when I went to my friends Jenn & Greg's wedding and I saw the CDs, I thought, oh, damn, perhaps my idea of mix CDs as wedding favors was not quite as original as I thought. (Though I did find out from that CD that Shawn Colvin had performed a great cover version of the Talking Heads "This Must Be the Place", so that took the edge off the revelation that I was stuck slam bang in the middle of the zeitgeist.)
I don't know...would you feel the same qualms if you were giving out mix tapes? How do you feel about playing music during the reception that you haven't paid to license? If you received a mix CD at someone else's wedding, would you feel conflicted about listening to it?
I personally find the RIAA's hard-ass position on mix CDs (make a mix CD for yourself, fine; hand it to someone else, you're a LAWBREAKER) pretty untenable. I own thousands of CDs. I like to expose people to music I like. It's not really feasible for me to invite them all into my house and play songs for them one at a time.
Anyway, if you do end up making a wedding mix, I'll trade you a copy of mine for a copy of yours. (^_^)
I'm against wedding cd's as favors. Not because of the legal implications but because:
1) They're overdone. Like the above posters, every wedding I've been to the in the last 10 years has done this. The only wedding favor LOWER on the scale of bad wedding favors are those stupid little bubble wand things in the shape of wedding cakes.
2) I usually throw the cd out right afterwards because I dislike the majority of the songs on it. Hence creating 10 years worth of wasted wedding cd's.
Please. You're an intelligent man and, from what I've seen on this site, your fiance is an intelligent woman. You went to indiebride.com for goodness sakes! You can come up with something much better than CD favors!
I veto the idea of wedding favors altogether. It's just more junk--or least it will be soon enough.
The CDs we made for my wedding (er, that would be the same as Francis's wedding, see above) were a one CD compilation from the 4+ hours of reception music that we spent months choosing before the wedding. Francis and I were not *about* to allow some DJ fool to control things at our party!
If you had a good time at the reception (which everyone seemed to), you'd be very likely to enjoy the CD, which was an intrinsically related wedding favor, totally unlike "stupid little bubble wand things".
Basically, music is very important to both of us, and all the songs we picked for the wedding favor CD were personally meaningful. For that reason, it didn't really matter to us that other people have handed out mix CDs as favors -- and because our musical tastes, while not mainstream, are also not crap, we've had many positive reports from our guests about how much they enjoyed the CDs.
>>But few, if any of our guests would otherwise purchase the music we will give them as a gift.<<
So it's ok to distribute copyrighted material but only if the recipient isn't a fan? How about if they're a marginal fan? "I like his music, but I'm not paying $19.95 for an album!" "Hey... since you're not willing to pay $19.95, I can burn a copy for you for free!!!" I think this point goes to L.
Dude, when did the world get filled up with spoilsport RIAA apologists? If anyone is so satisfied with hearing the one Yo La Tengo song I put on my wedding mix that they never need to hear *any other* Yo La Tengo songs in their life, and thus they never purchase any full-length Yo La Tengo albums, I submit that I am not depriving Yo La Tengo of any income, because that person was never going to buy any of their albums anyway.
On another subject, there aren't a lot of artists whose CDs I would pay $20 for. Given the amount of CDs I buy, anything over $12 makes me wince. I did recently pay $25 for a Japanese import of an otherwise out-of-print CD by the Colour Field, but obviously that's a special case.
In closing, my advice to anyone who thinks it's a terrible and immoral idea to hand out a mix CD to one's friends is: should you receive one of these shining disks of sin, pick an artist on the CD you like (or just pick one at random), and buy one of their CDs, for crying out loud. Or throw the thing away and don't listen to it. (If a song plays in an empty forest, does it infringe any copyright?) Problem solved.
Does this mean that half of the cd will have to be songs by the Indigo Girls, Harry Chapin, and David Wilcox? :)
i hate to say it L, but it looks like you are losing the battle! I am so excited to make cds for my wedding! Just be glad you have a fiance that it actually giving you an opinion on everything...i have to do it all myself...my fiance says he doesn't care what i do...it's MY wedding...last time i checked it was ours! So maybe you should just let him have this one! It's a good idea!
I have never gotten anything more that bubbles and matchboxes at the weddings I have attended.
I was asked to sing as "part of the choir" when I went to a wedding last year and 4 weeks prior to the big day, the bride and groom (who are professional singers) sent me a burned CD of the music that was to be performed in their ceremony along with all of the sheet music to practice from(Mozart, Herbert Howells, etc.)
To be honest I don't even remember if there even WAS a wedding favor, but I listen to this CD from time to time and it puts me back into the chapel where my friends were married and gives me fond rememberances so it acts as a wedding favor of sorts....
I am the pianist for a wedding in june for which the Bride has decided to professionally record my playing that day. I think I will suggest to her to burn copies of the ceremony music for a belated favor to guests (to be sent with thank you notes perhaps). Since all of the music is public domain (Debussy, Bach et al), and I don't make my living off of selling cd's, nobody gets the raw deal.
(God knows Brittany doesn't need any more money at this point....). I am with the groom on this one, anyway.
I want to do this for my wedding as well (August 8) and i had not even thought of the legal issues...does this make me a bad person? If you bought a CD and burned it for a friend, would that be a crime? I think a little astriks explaining that all songs were purchased (kind of like "no animals were hurt in the filming of this movie") would be a good compromise. Either way, can you let me know what songs you are using, I am looking for ideas.
I am with L on this one. I just cannot get over the fact that I am giving someone a copy of something that is copywrited material - so what if I paid for it, I did not pay for 200+ copies, just for one. I am not sure of the legal implications, but I am sure that we won't be doing this at our July wedding... maybe you could burn a CD of you and L singing?
Who cares if everyone gives out CD favors? Lighten up. I love music, and love when I get turned on to new artists. But I would limit it to 10 songs at most. Just ones that are especially important to you or were a part of your ceremony so people can remember hearing the song your bride walked down to, first dance, etc. It is a souvenier (sp?) of the wedding, not a chance to demonstate your encyclopedic music knowledge. There are no legal consequences unless you start selling them.
Just "Go for it"
Pam (sorry L)