Wedding Music

Two friends of mine recently got married and gave every wedding guest a mix CD they’d burned. The disc is full of songs easily identified with the bride and groom. Some of it is music you might hear at a party at the couple’s house. Some of the songs from the CD were played that night at the reception as we danced and reveled towards morning. Other songs on the mix are just great tunes seemingly written about this particular couple. All of the music reflects the sentiments of their wedding day, the love and romance that the bride and groom shared with each other and their friends and family.

Of course, handing out this CD—this nice gesture towards the wedding guests—was illegal. Copyright law, you know.


Even before this CD was distributed, music had already played prevalently at the wedding. From the soft tunes piped through a PA system from the groom’s PowerBook before the ceremony to that chart-topper “The Wedding March,” we rejoiced in music throughout the day. This should come as no great surprise, as music has played a role in celebration since the dawn of time. Wedding traditions are rife with music: Who among you happily married folk can’t recall Your Song from that first dance as husband and wife? Have you ever stopped to think about who “owns” Your Song?

Music ownership is not the black-and-white issue that the RIAA and other corporate interests would have us believe. Any work of art, especially commercially produced music, is a two-way communication between artist and audience. (Yes indeed, music played in the woods where no one can hear it earns no royalties.) The value in this relationship actually comes from both parties; how we interact with and relate to music is important. Hopefully we as a society keep this in mind when the RIAA and its lawyers start their thugging and suing in order to exert more control over the populace.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong and when we get married we should all be paying a fee to the corporation that absorbed Wagner’s sheet music company.

8 thoughts on “Wedding Music”

  1. I thought that technically the Home Recording Act made it legal to distribute music on a personal basis as long as it was made from an individuals owned (and paid for) collection, and given freely.

    Following that line of thought, you could not take a song from the cd you received and copy it to a disc for someone else.

    Is that not the case?

  2. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you are a member of a band that is on that disc. Let’s further assume that there are X number of discs given away at the wedding. On the one hand, it could be argued that someone receiving the disc and hearing your band’s music might say, “Hey, this is great; I want to go buy the shrink-wrapped copy!” Which would, of course, be beneficial. You would be happy because it might mean an additional 25-cents or similarly absurdly small sum that you might eventually receive in the form of a royalty check. But there is also the chance that the person in question might think, “Hey, I know that my man who put this disc together has selected only the good stuff, so this is all I need.” Which then would leave you a potential two-bits to the negative multiplied by a fraction of the X discs given away as a nice gesture. At which point, you might start liking the RIAA, TicketMaster, Clear Channel. . .

  3. I’d like to see the RIAA try to enforce the CD burner exclusion in a case like this. If it’s done on a small scale and is clearly not a commodity, I think they’d have a hard time arguing it doesn’t fall under the “fair use” clause.

  4. Check this out: http://www.riaa.org/Napster.cfm#consumers

    Isn’t file trading as innocent as making mix tapes for friends?

    No. The more appropriate analogy is if you give your mix tape to millions of anonymous strangers. That’s not legal, and it’s certainly not innocent.

    This implies that making mix tapes is innocent and legal. Hmmm.

    But then look at this: http://www.riaa.org/Protect-Campaign-1.cfm

    “Piracy” generally refers to the illegal duplication and distribution of sound recordings. There are four specific categories of music piracy:

    Pirate recordings are the unauthorized duplication of only the sound of legitimate recordings, as opposed to all the packaging, i.e. the original art, label, title, sequencing, combination of titles etc. This includes mixed tapes and compilation CDs featuring one or more artists.

    So would mix cds at a wedding be considered “illegal duplication and distribution”? What if the mix contained songs by Mel Torme?

  5. Of course, these are the RIAA’s guidelines, which may or may not be part of existing law in regards to file sharing and mix CDs. That’s what all the huff is about. They see music as merely commerce and the distribution by any “unauthorized” means illegal. The RIAA is attempting to rewrite the Fair Use clause.

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