When Chi-Hi administrators heard from Columbia Records late Friday it was music to their ears.
Columbia told school officials that the record company would grant retroactive licensing to the school for three songs that were burned onto a CD used as prom gift on May 8, according to Dr. James Sauter, principal at Chippewa Falls High School.
"We're very much relieved," Sauter said.
And the news just kept getting better. Columbia agreed not to impose a charge or licensing fee for using the songs, which are protected by U.S. copyright laws.
Members of the school's prom committee burned about 500 compact discs and distributed them in custom leather cases to people attending the 2004 Chi-Hi junior/senior prom.
The CDs were a compilation of the songs "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles, "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans and "100 Years" by the band Five for Fighting, and were burned on home computer equipment. The prom committee did not seek permission of the copyright holders for the songs.
School officials took the CD burning issue seriously from the time they were alerted to the potential copyright violation and sought out the copyright holders in an effort to rectify the issue.
"They were very non-judgemental," Sauter said of record company officials. "They said they get hundreds of request like ours every month."
But the fact that Columbia Records and Chi-Hi reached an understanding regarding the CDs doesn't discount the severity of the issue.
A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America declined to comment on the Chippewa Falls CDs, saying the trade group does not discuss specific cases.
"With respect to making copies of copyrighted sound recordings and musical works, copyright law is clear that duplicating and/or distributing such works without the authorization of the owners would constitute infringement, no matter the scale of such conduct," RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said in a statement.
Sauter said he feels bad for the junior class advisors, who got the idea for the CDs from a prom catalog.
Their intentions were nothing but honorable and this has been a very hard situation for them," the principal said. He noted that they were misled by a prom catalog featuring the CD cases.
"Give a gift that's fun and practical," the catalog states. "Record songs from prom night on CDs and store them in imprinted cases for memories that will last a lifetime."
When the dust clears, Sauter said the school might send the catalog company a letter.
"I think they should have a disclaimer or warning that doing that may violate copyright laws," he said.