Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” Video Case Leads To Copyright Precedent

Prince

Prince

Under a new ruling from a federal appeals court, Universal Music Group could be liable for attempting to take down a 29-second home video of a baby dancing to Prince‘s “Let’s Go Crazy.” In February 2007, Gallitzin, Pa., resident Stephanie Lenz uploaded the video featuring her then 13-month-old infant to YouTube. Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” was playing in the background. UMG sent YouTube a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), alleging the video infringed on the song’s copyright. Advocacy Group The Electronic Frontier Foundation represented Lenz, suing UMG on her behalf and arguing that Universal had misapplied the DMCA by inappropriately targeting a legal fair use.

On Monday (Sept. 14), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco)’s three-judge panel ruled that copyright holders are required to consider fair use before sending a takedown notification.

“Universal faces liability if it knowingly misrepresented in the takedown notification that it had formed a good faith belief the video was not authorized by the law, i.e., did not constitute fair use,” Judge Richard C. Tallman’s opinion reads. “Here, Lenz presented evidence that Universal did not form any subjective belief about the video’s fair use — one way or another — because it failed to consider fair use at all, and knew that it failed to do so.”

The Ninth Circuit stated a jury would need to decide whether UMG had formed a good faith belief that the video breached the fair use policy. Fair use allows portions of copyrighted material to be used for purposes of criticism, comment, research, or in other limited circumstances without a license from the copyright holder.

“Today’s ruling sends a strong message that copyright law does not authorize thoughtless censorship of lawful speech,” said Corynne McSherry, legal director for The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America, Jonathan Lamy, said, “We respectfully disagree with the court’s conclusion about the DMCA and the burden the court places upon copyright holders before sending takedown notices.”

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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