Universal said at the time that the clip infringed copyright. The dancing baby's mother, Stephanie Lenz, who uploaded the video, said it was protected by fair use principles. Google eventually agreed and restored the item.
Those events, which played out over a six-week period, have resulted in an epic legal battle between Lenz, who is represented by digital rights advocates, and Universal. Lenz and her supporters say that the takedown notice was obviously bogus, and that she is now entitled to damages. That's because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act imposes liability on anyone who knowingly sends a Web site an improper takedown notice.
But Universal says it didn't knowingly send a false takedown request. The company adds that it need not make decisions about fair use before complaining about clips.
This week, the entertainment company publicly filed a new round of papers with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering the issue. “Lenz paints her case as one of flagrant abuse of the DMCA's notice-and-takedown procedures. It is anything but that,” Universal argues.
The company asserts that the sequence of events -- takedown notice, followed by Lenz's complaint and the clip's restoration -- “worked precisely as intended.”
Universal adds: “Lenz had her posting restored expeditiously and without incurring any damages.”
The music company also argues that copyright holders such as itself aren't in a position to determine whether clips are protected by fair use, given that they don't have all the information about the “purpose and character of the use” -- which is key to fair use determinations. “If copyright owners are required to analyze others’ incorporation of their works and make the determination as to whether that use is fair, the users who are not a part of that judgment process will almost always have relevant information about the intent underlying the use that the copyright owner lacks,” the company argues.
The dispute has drawn the attention of a wide array of organizations. Google, Twitter, Tumblr and Automattic (which owns WordPress.com) recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief backing Lenz, while the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America are urging the court to side with Universal.