8 years ago, Universal Music sent a takedown notice over Stephanie Lenz's 29-second Youtube video of her kids dancing in the kitchen to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy."
EFF took on Lenz's case, arguing that Universal knew that 29 seconds of incidental background music was fair use and was abusing the DMCA through its censorship notice.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Lenz's and EFF's favor today, ruling that rightsholders must consider fair use before issuing takedowns. The court found that people whose creations were censored through DMCA abuse could sue the companies that filed the censorship demands, even if they couldn't show monetary damages from the censorship.
Next up: another trial where we find out if Universal has to pay damages for knowingly abusing the DMCA.
Today’s ruling in the Lenz case comes at a critical time. Heated political campaigns—like the current presidential primaries—have historically led to a rash of copyright takedown abuse. Criticism of politicians often includes short clips of campaign appearances in order to make their argument to viewers, and broadcast networks, candidates, and other copyright holders have sometimes misused copyright law in order to remove the criticism from the Internet.
“The decision made by the appeals court today has ramifications far beyond Ms. Lenz’s rights to share her video with family and friends,” said McSherry.“We will all watch a lot of online video and analysis of presidential candidates in the months to come, and this ruling will help make sure that information remains uncensored.”
Important Win for Fair Use in ‘Dancing Baby’ Lawsuit [EFF]
The Authors Alliance is a nonprofit that advocates for authors, libraries, readers and scholars (I'm on their advisory board); they've done a ton of great work, notably a tool for authors to claim their copyrights back from publishers, even when the original contract specified that the rights were signed away "in perpetuity."
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