Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2009

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Intellectual Property Focus:  

For previous IP coverage, read the March 2008 or 2007 Bar Bulletin

YouTube is one of the hottest topics in the area of U.S. copyright infringement. This came to a head last year when a homemaker, Stephanie Lenz, uploaded a 29-second video of her toddler son dancing to the song “Let’s Go Crazy” (composed by the artist professionally known as Prince) onto YouTube for family and friends to watch. “Let’s Go Crazy” was a #1 hit for Prince in 1984. The copyright to “Let’s Go Crazy” is owned by Universal Music Corp. Various versions of the song are about four to five minutes long. When Lenz’s video came to the attention of Universal Music Corp., Universal Music sent YouTube a “takedown” notice, stating that Lenz’s video infringed on its copyright and demanding YouTube take down the video. YouTube complied with Universal’s “takedown” notice and notified Lenz of its actions and the reasons therefore. Lenz protested the removal of her video on the grounds that her video constituted fair use under U.S. copyright law and thus did not infringe on Universal Music’s copyright. YouTube re-posted Lenz’s video about six weeks later. Shortly thereafter, Lenz filed suit against Universal Music in federal court in California, alleging intentional misrepresentation of copyright assertion under the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which would entitle her to damages if she is successful. In a case of first impression, the court found that prior to sending a takedown notice to YouTube and similar sites, the copyright owner must do a “fair use” analysis. Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., 572 F.Supp.2d 1150 (Aug. 20, 2008). The court did not address the issue of whether Lenz’s video itself was a fair use of Universal Music’s copyright. The lawsuit received significant media attention when it was filed and is ongoing.

Here is a link to the video: http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=N1KfJHFWlhQ. What do you think – fair use or not?

Ruth F. Vadi is an attorney with the law firm of Hodes, Pessin & Katz, P.A. Her primary areas of practice are patent, technology, intellectual property and entertainment law.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March 2009

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