US mother can keep toddler's video on YouTube, says judge

September 15, 2015 08:54
This blurry YouTube video of a toddler dancing to a Prince hit represents fair use and does not breach copyright, according to a US judge. Photo: Internet

A US mother has won a landmark copyright ruling over a home video she posted on YouTube, allowing her to keep it online.

The clip shows a toddler dancing to the Prince hit Let's Go Crazy which YouTube removed at the request Universal Music Group which holds the copyright to the song.

But a judge in the ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that copyright holders must consider "fair use" before demanding the removal of videos that people post online.

"Copyright holders cannot shirk their duty to consider -- in good faith and prior to sending a takedown notification -- whether allegedly infringing material constitutes fair use," Circuit Judge Richard Tallman wrote in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel.

The decision could make it harder for copyright holders to remove alleged infringing content from the Internet by invoking the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 law intended to curb movie and music piracy online.

Critics say abusive takedown notices can suppress free speech.

In February, Stephanie Lenz of Gallitzin, Pennsylvania uploaded to YouTube a blurry 29-second clip of her 13-month-old son Holden happily bobbing up and down to Let's Go Crazy, a 1984 song by Prince and The Revolution that played in the background.

Lenz said she thought her family and friends would enjoy seeing the toddler, who had just learned to walk, dance as well.

But Universal, which enforced Prince's copyright, persuaded YouTube to remove Lenz's video, citing a good faith belief that the video was unauthorized.

Lenz had the video restored, and sued Universal over the takedown notice, seeking damages.

In January 2013, US District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Francisco said copyright holders must consider fair use, but denied Lenz's misrepresentation claim.

Upholding that ruling, Tallman said there can be liability if a copyright holder "knowingly misrepresented" in a takedown notice that it had a good faith belief that a video "did not constitute fair use".

The video on YouTube:

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