The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) asking a federal court to protect the fair use and free speech rights of a mother who posted a short video of her toddler son dancing to a Prince song on the Internet.
Stephanie Lenz's 29-second recording shows her son bouncing along to the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy " which is heard playing in the background. Lenz uploaded the home video to YouTube in February to share it with her family and friends.
YouTube then informed Lenz that it had removed the video from its website after Universal claimed that the recording infringed a copyright controlled by the music company. Under federal copyright law a mere allegation of copyright infringement can result in the removal of content from the Internet.
"I was really surprised and angry when I learned my video was removed " said Lenz. "Universal should not be using legal threats to try to prevent people from sharing home videos of their kids with family and friends."
"Universal's takedown notice doesn't even pass the laugh test " said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Copyright holders should be held accountable when they undermine non-infringing fair uses like this video."
Last May UMPG's parent company Universal Music Group sent a baseless copyright takedown demand to YouTube for a video podcast by political blogger Michelle Malkin. That video was quickly reposted after Malkin fought back.
"Copyright abuse can shut down online artists political analysts or -- as in this case -- ordinary families who simply want to share snippets of their day-to-day lives " said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Universal must stop making groundless infringement claims that trample on fair use and free speech."
The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that Lenz's home video does not infringe any Universal copyright as well as damages and injunctive relief restraining Universal from bringing further copyright claims in connection with the video.
This lawsuit is part of EFF's ongoing work to protect online free speech in the face of bogus copyright claims. EFF is currently working with Stanford's Fair Use Project to develop a set of "best practices" for proper takedowns under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.