Copyright Law

Fair Use Right Upheld in Claim Over YouTube Dancing Baby Takedown


A federal judge in northern California questions whether Stephanie Lenz can prove that Universal Music Corp. acted in bad faith when it demanded that YouTube take down a 29-second video clip she posted of her 13-month-old baby jumping up and down to the sound of the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy.”

But U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel has nonetheless given her a green light to proceed with her lawsuit seeking costs from the company, which owns the rights to the song, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The suit contends that Universal knew or should have known her video was a permitted fair use of the copyrighted song and had no commercial value, and hence made the takedown demand in bad faith, according to the newspaper. It acted under a 1998 law that permits copyright holders to issue takedown orders when material is used on the Internet without authorization, without first having to prove infringement in court.

“Universal denied her claim and argued that the 1998 law doesn’t require copyright holders to decide whether a copied work is a fair use before ordering it taken down,” the newspaper writes. “Fair use is never obvious, the company argued, and the inquiry would be so cumbersome and time-consuming that it would thwart the purpose of the law authorizing takedowns.”

The newspaper says the ruling is the first time a federal court has held that a copyright holder must consider whether an Internet posting is fair use before demanding a takedown.

Counsel from the Electronic Frontier Foundation represent Lenz in the case.

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