Why Google, Twitter and Tumblr Are Backing the ‘Dancing Baby’

Remember the Pennsylvania Mom who posted a 29-second home movie of her toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” prompting the purple-hued pop star’s record label to demand that YouTube take down the video? That was in 2007. Now, six years later, the legal battle ignited by a 13-month-old with a penchant for His Royal Badness is approaching a critical juncture, in a case with important ramifications for copyright law and the nation’s largest Internet and entertainment companies. When Universal Music demanded that YouTube remove the clip, the Google-owned video giant complied, but Stephanie Lenz, whose son Holden was the star of the video, decided to fight back. With the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital rights group, Lenz sued Universal Music for misrepresentation of copyright claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 law that defined the intellectual property rights and limits of companies in the Internet age. The fundamental issue presented by the case is whether Internet users — from homemakers like Lenz, to artists, scholars, journalists and political activists — have any meaningful remedy for, and protection against, wrongful claims of copyright infringement. The legal dispute sparked by a pajama-clad toddler who loved Prince has become a closely watched test case of copyright law. The verdict could help crack down on the increasingly rampant abuse of takedown notices to suppress online criticism, stifle dissent, and violate free speech rights. Lenz argued that her video (see below) was protected by the “fair use” principle of copyright law, and said that Universal Music’s actions harmed her financially and violated her First Amendment rights. Since then the case has wound its way through the legal system, with both Lenz and Universal Music arguing for summary judgment. After a federal judge in California said that the case could only be decided by a trial, both Lenz and Universal Music appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is preparing to hear the case. Universal Music disputes Lenz’s assertion that she was harmed financially by the takedown notice, and … Continue reading Why Google, Twitter and Tumblr Are Backing the ‘Dancing Baby’