The case pitted a Pennsylvania
woman, Stephanie Lenz, against record company Universal Music
Group (UMG), the Vivendi SA-owned unit that enforces Prince's
copyrights. She sued Universal Music Group after it directed the
video-sharing website YouTube to remove a 29-second video she
had posted in 2007 that showed her 13-month-old son dancing to
the 1984 song.
The high court left in place a mixed September 2015 ruling by
the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The legal question focused on whether copyright holders can face
damages if they wrongly direct someone to take down content
posted online that is protected by the "fair use" doctrine,
which allows the use of copyrighted material in some
circumstances without the permission of the rights holder.
The appeals court decision could make it harder for copyright
holders to remove content that they feel infringes upon
copyright-protected works by invoking the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act, a 1998 federal law intended to curb movie and
music piracy online. Critics contend that abusive takedown
notices can suppress the freedom speech guaranteed under the
Lenz said that when she posted the video that was recorded in
her kitchen she thought her family and friends would enjoy
seeing the toddler, who had just learned to walk, dance as well.
The boy, wearing a red outfit and a happy expression, is seen
bouncing to the music while pushing a wheeled walking toy.
But Universal Music Group persuaded YouTube to remove Lenz's
video, citing a good faith belief that the video was
Lenz had the video restored, and sued Universal over the
takedown notice, seeking damages.
A U.S. district court in California ruled partly in Lenz's
favor. The ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit.
The 9th Circuit said there can be liability if a copyright
holder "knowingly misrepresented" in a takedown notice that it
had a good-faith belief that a video "did not constitute fair
use." But that decision also said courts should defer to a
copyright holder who has a "subjective good-faith belief" to the
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)
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