Viral video of Prince-loving baby wins copyright case against Universal

Thanks to a simple viral YouTube video of a toddler dancing to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy, record labels will have to think twice before demanding users take down videos featuring copyrighted content.

In another of the many copyright cases that should be filed under “total waste of taxpayer money,” a U.S. appeals court ruled Universal acted improperly by sending YouTube user Stephanie Lenz a takedown notice after she posted the video of her son getting down to the ’80s hit. The decision comes seven long years after Lenz originally sued Universal for demanding that the video be removed.

“Copyright holders cannot shirk their duty to consider — in good faith and prior to sending a takedown notification — whether allegedly infringing material constitutes fair use,” wrote 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Tallman in his statement according to Reuters. This is the first federal appeals court to make a call on the issue, said the 9th Circuit Court (via the LA Times).

With regards to videos, the fair-use principle applies to non-commercial works that use copyrighted material as long as the material doesn’t “dominate” the video or “affect the value” of the work, according to the LA Times. “We are mindful of the pressing crush of voluminous infringing content that copyright holders face in a digital age,” wrote the 9th Circuit. “But that does not excuse a failure to comply with [these] procedures.”

The ruling is certainly happy news for Lenz, who has been battling with Universal since they initially took down her video in 2007. While Lenz initially won the case in 2008, the appeals process just came to a close this week. It’s unclear what ramifications the ruling will have for the future, but Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Corynne McSherry told the LA Times that she hopes this decision will result in fewer improper takedown orders going forward.

One thing’s for sure: Lenz’s 29-second blurry video of her toddler (now a 9 year old), which has garnered 1.3 million views since it was posted, is now a significant part of YouTube history.


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