The Homemade Wedding Favor CD; Should You or Shouldn’t You?

In a way, the wedding favor CD, or “mix CD,” seems to embody the best of wedding favors. Almost everyone enjoys music. And CDs add nothing to your thighs, and they’re perfectly safe for diabetics. What’s more, they can have a personal feel. After all, listening to someone’s idea of great music is pretty intimate. (Isn’t that why we all made tapes for someone we really liked in high school?).

In fact, not only can you stock CDs with music you love, you can create several mixes for the different generations among your guests. Pretty creative and thoughtful, right? There’s only one problem — burning CDs as favors isn’t exactly legal.

Or is it? Actually, you could probably argue this a variety of ways. The fact is, US intellectual property laws are woefully out-of-date, and badly prepared for the ease with which we can create perfect digital copies.

A certain leeway existed (though this was a gray area too) when a person wanted to copy a CD song onto a cassette tape, since the tape version was clearly ‘degraded’ in quality. But digital copies are perfect. Regardless of the letter, the spirit of the law dislikes people distributing perfect, protected music for free, whether or not you get paid for those copies. (In fact, simply downloading music can get you into big, big trouble if you’re one of the unfortunates picked to serve as “an example.”)

Now, the good news is that no record label is likely to come swooping down on your wedding to drag your elegantly-coiffed self to jail because you distribute home-burned wedding favor CDs (unless they pegged you for downloading it earlier).

And yet … you may find the slightest sense of doubt creeping into the minds of one or two of your guests — Edna from Elmwood Springs, say — who may spend a moment wondering, was this music downloaded from Napster? Is it stolen? Am I comfortable playing this CD? Will I be breaking the law? If you have any guests who are musicians, they, too, are likely to feel uncomfortable.

These may not be the types of musings you want your wedding favors to inspire, not even vaguely. Not even among a small percentage of guests.

Another point worth considering is that wedding favor CDs take a terribly long time to burn. Their tortoise-like progress is not all that apparent until you set out to make 25 of  them. Or 50. Or 200. (Oh, and of course, several of them didn’t quite “take” … better test them all to find out which ones ended up as coasters. Sigh.)

This may not be enough to dissuade you. You may be sure in your heart that your guests will adore your wedding favor CDs, be untroubled by potential legal issues, and in fact, be inspired to try new artists as a result of your irresistible selection, which will then drive more business to those artists.

But if you feel a vague sense of unease, you may want to look into a different type of favor, or even purchase a legal compilation CD from one of the many services available online. Will they cost more than the homemade variety? You betcha.

In fact, with the laws in their current bemused shape, it isn’t yet possible to offer a fully-legal, fully-customized CD favor for a price within a normal wedding favors budget. The best you can do at the moment is take music you already own on CD (still legally sketchy), or download it legally from a service like Rhapsody or iTunes. That ought to quell some of the quivers, if you can afford it. And maybe someday, the laws will catch up to reality, and the conscientious bride can get totally legal.