By now you may have heard of the case of Pennsylvania mum Stephanie Lenz, who has been battling Universal for the right to post a video of her baby dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” She’s won the first step–that her video is covered under “fair use” of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Now she wants damages–and if she gets them it will change the way media companies defend their copyright online.
Lenz, backed by lawyers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is arguing that Universal should pay her legal fees and damages for wrongly sending her a takedown notice, supposedly sent at the behest of Prince, in 2007. Universal asked a San Jose judge on Friday to have the case dismissed, arguing that they shouldn’t have to determine whether a video is protected by “fair use” before firing off a takedown letter.
Consider, for a moment, what’s at stake: big media takes a shotgun approach to takedown letters, and sites like YouTube are obliged to comply or face liability before any judgement is made on whether an actual infringement has taken place. If Lenz wins her case, Universal and everyone else will have to make sure a video isn’t covered by “fair use” under the DMCA before sending off a letter, adding a whole layer of complexity and cost to the process.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel didn’t give an indication when he’d rule on Lenz’s countersuit, but conceded “it’s a very important issue of statutory interpretation.” The video has been viewed 518,484 times on YouTube.
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