Legal Battle Continues Over Home Video's Use Of Prince Song

YouTube screengrabStephanie Lenz's homemade clip of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" is only 29 seconds long, but the litigation it sparked has dragged on for nearly one year now with no signs of slowing down.

Universal Music Group last June asked YouTube to remove the clip, claiming the video infringed on the copyright to "Let's Go Crazy." Lenz protested, arguing that the background music to her toddler, Holden, dancing was a fair use. Six weeks later, YouTube restored the video.

But that was only the beginning. Legal proceedings ensued, pitting the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation against a major record label in a battle regarding when it's legitimate to complain that clips violate copyright.

The digital civil liberties group alleges that Universal should have never asked YouTube to remove the homemade clip, which the group called "a self-evident non-infringing fair use." The group initially filed suit against Universal last summer, seeking damages for allegedly violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by making misrepresentations about a clip.

Universal responded that the fair use issue wasn't clear-cut, and also argued that the lawsuit itself violated the record label's free speech rights. To support the latter claim, Universal said that its takedown notice sent to YouTube was itself a form of speech.

Federal district court judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose tossed the entire case earlier this month. He ruled that the Electronic Frontier Foundation had not provided enough information to show it was self-evident that the clip was fair use, and that Universal also had not shown its free speech rights were violated.

But Fogel also ruled that the Electronic Frontier Foundation could re-file its complaint, and the group took him up on that offer. The most recent papers, filed April 18, charge that Universal knew or should have known it had no grounds to complain under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

"The video bears all the hallmarks of a family home movie--it is somewhat blurry, the sound quality is poor, it was filmed with an ordinary digital video camera, and it focuses on documenting Holden's 'dance moves' against a background of normal household activity, commotion and laughter," the new complaint charges. "The snippet of 'Let's Go Crazy' that plays in the background (not dubbed as a soundtrack) of the Holden Video could not substitute for the original Prince song in any conceivable market."

Universal did not respond to a request for comment.

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