21 August 2008

The dancing baby and Prince

The courts in the US today have delivered the ruling in the case of Lenz v. Universal. The facts of the case are quite simple. The Plaintiff posted a home movie of a toddler dancing in a kitchen to a song by Prince entitled 'Let`s Go Crazy' on YouTube with the aim of sharing the video with her friends and relatives. Universal Music Corporation ('Universal'), the owner of the copyright in the song, sent a DMCA takedown notice to the user in question. The user contended that the use amounted to fair use and sued Universal on the grounds of misrepresentation under s. 512 the Digital Millenium Copyright Act ('DMCA') and tortious interference with her contract with YouTube.

Universal`s defence was that it had no obligation to consider whether or not the use by the use amounted to 'fair use' before sending the notice.

The main question which the Courts had to answer was whether 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A)(v) required a copyright owner to consider the fair use doctrine in formulating a good faith belief that 'use of the material in the manner complained of, is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.'

The courts rejected the defence of Universal and ruled that copyright owners need to determine whether or not the use in question is fair use, before sending a take down notice. This is because the DMCA requires copyright owners to act in 'good faith belief that the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.' Hence to do this, the owner must evaluate whether the material makes fair use of the copyright.

This ruling is one that is grounded in logic and correct application of the legal principles as otherwise copyright owners can send takedown notices even in cases where the use in question does not infringe their copyright.

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