Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stephanie Lenz, Copyright Hero

In case you haven't seen the news, Stephanie Lenz is the woman who is suing Universal Music Corp for issuing a takedown notice against this video of her kids, which happens to have Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" playing in the background:

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The issue in Stephanie Lenz's lawsuit against Universal is whether the owner of the rights to a creative work that's being used without permission can order the Web host to remove it without first considering whether the infringement was actually a legal fair use - a small or innocuous replication that couldn't affect the market for the original work.

Lenz's lawyers, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say her 29-second video, with fuzzy camerawork and unclear sound, was such an obvious noncommercial fair use that Universal should have to reimburse her for the costs of taking it out of circulation for more than a month last year.
Back in December of last year, when The Richter Scales' "Here Comes Another Bubble" music video also ran afoul of a YouTube takedown notice, there was a lot of hand-wringing discussion within the group about how to respond. We actually consulted with EFF and other lawyers, but in the end decided that the potential downside of inviting legal action was too big. (The video currently on YouTube is "version 1.1," with the single controversial image removed.)

I'm definitely rooting for Lenz and EFF in this case. While the nuances are different from the "Bubble" situation, the basic premise is the same: the DMCA and other copyright laws are routinely abused, "fair use" is not well defined, and all of that needs to change.