Universal protests child dancing to Prince song
Numerous examples of intellectual property and copyright violations still exist on the internet: bloggers who don't credit photographs; sellers who copy artwork. Just last week I was involved in an effort to remove a piece of art offered for sale. It was a flagrant copy of an original painting that I own. But Universal Music is an example of a copyright holder pushing ownership too far.
So the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), asking a federal court to protect the fair use and free speech rights of a mother who posted an internet video of her toddler dancing to a Prince song. Stephanie Lenz's 29-second recording shows her son bouncing along to "Let's Go Crazy," heard playing in the background. Lenz uploaded the home video to YouTube in February to share it with her family and friends.
In July YouTube informed Lenz it had removed the video from its website after Universal claimed the recording infringed a copyright controlled by the music company. Under federal copyright law, a mere allegation of copyright infringement can result in the removal of content from the internet.
"I was really surprised and angry when I learned my video was removed," said Lenz. "Universal should not be using legal threats to try to prevent people from sharing home videos of their kids with family and friends." "Universal's takedown notice doesn't even pass the laugh test," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Copyright holders should be held accountable when they undermine non-infringing, fair uses like this video."
Last May UMPG's parent company, Universal Music Group, sent a baseless copyright takedown demand to YouTube for a video podcast by political blogger Michelle Malkin. That video was quickly reposted after Malkin fought back. "Copyright abuse can shut down online artists, political analysts, or - as in this case - ordinary families who simply want to share snippets of their day-to-day lives," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Universal must stop making groundless infringement claims that trample on fair use and free speech."
The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that Lenz's home video does not infringe any Universal copyright, as well as damages and injunctive relief restraining Universal from bringing further copyright claims in connection with the video. This lawsuit is part of EFF's ongoing work to protect online free speech in the face of bogus copyright claims. EFF is currently working with Stanford's Fair Use Project to develop a set of "best practices" for proper takedowns under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.