YouTube User Puts Legal Lash to Universal

Now it’s the copyright holders getting taken to court.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today 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 on the Internet.

In February, Stephanie Lenz uploaded to a 29-second video of her son dancing to Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy.” She said she made it public for her friends and family.

But last month, YouTube told her UMPG threatened legal action if the video was not removed from the site immediately. The video came down.

“I was really surprised and angry when I learned my video was removed,” Lenz said in a statement. “Universal should not be using legal threats to try to prevent people from sharing home videos of their kids with family and friends.”

EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry told Lenz has reason to be upset. McSherry said the video is obviously a fair use of copyrighted material.

“According to the content owners, what they’re worried about is long verbatim copies of their music, their movies, their news. Here, we’re talking about a tiny snippet of music played in the background of a home video. That’s clearly fair use. Unfortunately the folks at Universal didn’t spot that like they should have,” McSherry said.

Universal Music did not respond to requests for comment.

This instance isn’t the first time a major copyright holder potentially overstepped its authority by asking YouTube to pull down videos.

Earlier this year, Viacom, which is currently suing YouTube-owner Google for $1 billion, demanded the site remove a video montage featuring Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, entitled “Falsiness.”

Problem was, Viacom doesn’t own the copyright for “Falsiness.” The progressive activist group does, and it demanded the video be re-posted to YouTube. It has been.

The EFF case was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

In related YouTube news, Nielsen Research Media said Monday’s CNN-YouTube debate between Democratic candidates averaged 2.6 million viewers. This made it the second-most-watched debate this season to date.

News Around the Web