Mom continues to chase Prince over 'fair use'

Prince accused Stephanie Lenz of violating his copyright in a YouTube video of her child. His label has backed down, and now it's Lenz suing the artist for violating her rights.

This is the video in question.

(Credit: Stephanie Lenz)

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Stephanie Lenz is an angry Pennsylvania mother who refuses to back down from the music industry.

Lenz's attorneys were in federal district court on Friday morning, trying to thwart a motion to dismiss her lawsuit against Universal Music Group . A year ago, the music label ordered YouTube to pull down a 30-second video she shot of her infant son dancing to Prince's song "Let's Go Crazy."

Lenz, who resides in a rural Pennsylvania area, claims that her video is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Fair Use provision in copyright law. She fought the order, and eventually, Universal Music abandoned any claim that she violated Prince's copyright. YouTube has since reposted her clip.

Now Lenz is out to teach the music industry a lesson.

What Lenz and her attorneys at the Electronic Frontier Foundation want are for media companies to stop sending take-down notices in a "willy nilly" fashion and to make sure that they have a legitimate claim of copyright violation before acting. They failed do this with Lenz's video, according to Corynne McSherry, an EFF attorney.

"This video is so clearly noninfringing," McSherry said. "What we've seen is that Universal Music had the view that they could take down Prince content as a matter of principle. But what they were obligated to do was form a good-faith belief that the video was infringing...They may not have formed a good-faith belief at all."

The good news for her is that U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel said he would take the matter under consideration after hearing arguments from both sides.

In April, Fogel tossed out the lawsuit Lenz filed against Universal in October. Fogel said her argument that Universal was misusing its copyright was weak.

The judge did allow Lenz's EFF attorneys, however, to try their arguments a second time.

EFF promptly filed a second complaint, arguing that Universal Music should compensate Lenz for falsely accusing her of violating the law and getting her video removed from Google's video-sharing service. The music label has asked the judge to dismiss the case.

A lawyer for Universal Music argued that the label isn't liable for ordering Lenz's video to be removed because it doesn't have to think about Fair Use prior to sending take-down notices. There is no legal obligation to think about it in advance.

EFF, which advocates for the rights of Internet users, disagrees. The group has always said there is real harm caused when a media company issues take-down notices. For example, Lenz had to spend time learning why her video was taken down and convincing YouTube that she had not violated copyright law.

Even though Universal Music now says it no longer considers Lenz's baby video to be infringing on its copyright, Lenz says just receiving the take-down letter caused her harm.

Fogel gave no timetable on when he might make a decision. Should he decline to dismiss the case, Lenz's lawsuit would be allowed to move forward.

 

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