October 21, 2010 | By Rebecca Jeschke

Mom Asks Court to Declare Universal Violated Law in "Dancing Baby" Case

Back in 2007, Stephanie Lenz posted a video to YouTube of her children dancing and running around in her kitchen. Stephanie wanted to share the moment with her family and friends. But they weren't the only ones watching: a few months later, Universal Music Corp. had the video removed from YouTube, claiming that the video infringed its copyright.

With help from EFF and Keker & Van Nest, Lenz fought back. She filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to hold Universal accountable for misrepresenting that her fair use violated copyright law. Since then, Lenz has won a number of key decisions from the judge in the case, including a ruling that content owners must consider fair use before sending copyright takedown notices. On Monday, Lenz filed a motion for summary judgment asking the judge to rule that Universal violated the law.

Over the years, the case has garnered a great deal of media coverage. One reason for the interest is that Ms. Lenz was accused of infringement for doing something parents do all the time: documenting and sharing precious moments in the lives of their children. As explained in Monday's brief:

Every day, thousands of parents take pictures and make videos of their kids doing all sorts of things. Many of those pictures and videos incorporate copyrighted works in myriad ways -- a child may be wearing a t-shirt with a copyrighted character on it, or she may be standing in front of a copyrighted sculpture, or there may be copyrighted music playing in the background. This activity doesn't make parents of America copyright scofflaws. And everyone versed in copyright law (such as a major music publisher) knows why: because these examples are fair uses.

Universal filed a motion for summary judgment of its own Monday, arguing that the video was not an obvious case of fair use. (You'll notice that both of the motions have many redactions, as a protective order in the case requires some information to be treated as confidential.) A hearing on the matter is set for December 10, and hopefully we'll have a resolution to this long-running case soon.


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