Students Give Out Burned CDs At Prom

from the ooops dept

Some high school students organizing a prom in Wisconsin thought it would be a great idea to give out a CD to each of approximately 500 students who came to the prom – as a nice memento. They spent $1,845 to have the CD cases professionally made, but didn’t think about actually paying for the songs. They just burned the CD’s three songs themselves. The RIAA won’t say what they’re doing, but clearly they’re looking into the situation. Obviously, the kids involved broke the law. It’s an open and shut case of copyright infringement. However, take a step back and ask the more important questions: did the recording industry “lose” anything in doing this? First off, it’s unlikely they would have allowed the students to create the CD in the first place – so it wasn’t as if they lost out on the fees they would have charged. Even if they somehow were convinced to allow it, they likely would have charged an amount that would have been too costly for the students. Again, they wouldn’t have lost anything because no money would have been paid. Finally, since the students did go out and put a grand total of three songs on the CD, how many “sales” can the industry claim they lost? The students didn’t receive a whole CD, and it’s likely that some of the students liked one, two or all three of the songs on the CD – and may have been intrigued enough by the songs to go out and purchase the CD that they came from. The law here is clear. The students were wrong. However, shouldn’t we look at whether or not that makes any sense? Update: In the comments, someone has posted a useful followup link saying that Columbia Records has gotten in touch with the school to say they won’t do anything about the CDs. Of course, one could interpret this as them knowing just how bad the PR backlash would be. The more important point is that the school needed to worry about this in the first place.

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Comments on “Students Give Out Burned CDs At Prom”

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Mark Murphy (user link) says:

Fine levels should mirror market-set pricing

They broke the law. However, the fine should be comparable to the conceivable lost revenue. With the advent of iTunes and such, a market-set price (well, OK, not purely market-set, but sorta) of a per-song-download fine is 99 cents. With approximately 500 students and approximately 3 songs, that’d lead to a total fine of approximately $1,500.

Sofa King Stoned says:

No Law Broken

It’s not so clear they broke the law. Think of wedding albums on cd or DVD, or a memorial DVD for someone. Those item always have some background music, yet there’s never any question of contacting either the artist or the RIAA for permission or payment. (And the most you’d get is a request for a credit somewhere in the video.) In those cases no copyright is violated since the article is not commercial and will be distributed to only a limited set of people.

Now, if they start reproducing them and selling them, then they have a problem.

David says:

Re: No Law Broken

yea, I completely agree with that. RIAA is just a bunch of bullshit people on a power strike. That just pisses me off. They are just greedy morons who are getting backed up by the government which laws are fucked up anyways, of course everything is run by big bussiness. The only thing any of them is interested in is more moeny. Makes me sick.

Jeremiah (user link) says:


I’m thinking this probably falls clearly under “fair use.” Nolo Press has a good guide. It seems the barometer of infringement has to do with commercial availability or claiming of credit, neither of which impacts the students.

I agree with the wedding analogy – I too have attended a wedding and recieved a memento on DVD with commercial music.

Anonymous Coward says:


I think the next time I record a wedding DVD I am going to write the RIAA and let them know that for a small fee I will allow their recording to be memorialized in my production. I will remind them that if they do not pay me for advertising their commercial product, they will not get product placement in my recordings.

Dr. Don Blake says:

Prom Audio tapes ...

In the 70s when I was a lad, high school prom committees made audio tapes for the senior class and no one ever gave a rats heiny.
Now because its on CD format the RIAA thinks a senior class is pirate worthy? Yeesh!!! Thank God no one in the 70s that I knew making the Prom cassette tape handouts had to pay for such killer tunes like Color My World and You Don’t Have To Be A Star?that would have been criminal 😉

Nipsey says:

No Subject Given

Before we get too carried away, notice that this is NOT an example of the RIAA cracking down on some insignificant copyright infringement. This story is about how 2 other parties are reacting: 1) the school which switched into damage control mode, and 2) some guy who has an IP website…and thus this is his personal bugaboo.
I guess the RIAA should be pretty happy with them selves, tho, since this proves that their publicity blitz around the issue has had its intended effect.
Also, the article does not mention what songs were distributed. Who knows if the RIAA even has control over the copyrights? Anyone know?

Nipsey says:

Re: No Subject Given

FYI, The songs were “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles, “Born to Fly” by Sara Evans and “100 Years” by Five for Fighting. THIS is what kids are listineing to in highschol???
Also, per ?Officials at Columbia Records got in touch with school leaders late Friday, saying they agree to not impose any charges or lisencing fees for using three songs the prom committee handed out. Principal James Sauter says he’s relieved by the decision.?

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