Like so many mothers before her, Stephanie Lenz thought her friends and family might enjoy seeing her toddler. So she uploaded a video to YouTube of her son dancing to Prince.
Universal, Prince’s label, demanded that the video be taken down. In 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued Universal of behalf of Lenz, claiming that Universal’s failure to consider whether there actually was any copyright infringement before demanding a take down violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA was developed, in part, to deter copyright holders from abusing their ability to demand things be taken down from sites.
Last week, a district court judge in California denied Universal’s request for summary judgment and ruled Lenz’s suit can go forward, even if her economic damages are not readily apparent. “Requiring a plaintiff who can make such a showing to demonstrate in addition not only that she suffered damages but also that those damages were economic and substantial would vitiate the deterrent effect of the statute,” Judge Jeremy Fogel for the US District Court for the Northern District of California wrote.
“The decision is significant as the first one to construe the question of how broadly the terms damages and fees should be construed under the DMCA,” Ian Ballon, Internet law expert at Greenberg Traurig, told The Recorder, via email.
YouTube put the video back up two months after it was first removed, and seeing as Lenz claims its purpose was just for friends and family, it’s difficult to imagine any real monetary damages. The judge’s opinion limits potential damages and fees to be recovered to damages proximately caused by Universal’s alleged misrepresentation to YouTube and to attorney’s fees incurred prior to the filing of the suit.
The Recorder’s full report is here.
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