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Mom Sues Music Company Over Baby Video Removal 391

penguin_dance writes "A Pennsylvania mom is fighting back, suing Universal Music Publishing Group for having a home movie taken down off of YouTube. The movie, featuring her 18-month old bouncing to Prince's song, 'Let's Go Crazy,' was cited for removal by the Group for copyright infringement. Mom Stephanie Lenz was first afraid they'd come after her — then she got angry. She got YouTube to put the video back up, she's enlisted the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and she's filed a civil lawsuit (pdf). 'I thought even though I didn't do anything wrong that they might want to file some kind of suit against me, take my house, come after me. And I didn't like feeling afraid ... I didn't like feeling that I could get in trouble for something as simple as posting a home video for my friends and family to see.'"
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Mom Sues Music Company Over Baby Video Removal

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  • by Khaed ( 544779 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @12:47AM (#21137463)
    Does that mean you can go right in and hold em up for cash?

    Actually, as a matter of fact, it does. Else the EFF wouldn't have taken the case. The EFF may not be perfect, but they damn sure aren't going around wasting cash.

    P.S.: Seriously, RTFA.

  • Re:Two words... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 27, 2007 @12:57AM (#21137533)
    Fair use is so 20th century. Now days we have tolerated use [slate.com].
  • Hmm - wasn't it just a few years ago that Prince had a major dustup with BMI (or whatever label), so that he could regain control of HIS music?

    Yet the ABC story this morning seemed to indicate that BMI was responsible for the takedown notice. Is that because BMI still controls some of his older stuff?

    And they interviewed some paid lackey, who was "scouring the internet". It wasn't clear that Prince was directly involved.

  • by Gailin ( 138488 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @01:17AM (#21137645) Homepage
    EFF Victories [eff.org]

    With their pretty long list of cases listed here [eff.org] perhaps you could go through and point out out the hundreds listed, which ones they lost. If they have a track record of losing, I'm sure it won't take long to point out a few dozen cases the lost out of the hundred+ listed. I'd love to be more informed, but I suspect you probably have a couple headlines stuck in your head and are overgeneralizing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 27, 2007 @01:25AM (#21137671)
    There ain't any, none. Them harassing her is crap. Radio stations all over play 30 second and under bumper music clips for *free*. Been like that for a long long time. She got a 29 second clip, she can tell them to go pound sand. The judge will, too. I certainly hope they file notice with those bozo lawyer's bar association, she might have some serious damages coming and they could even be disbarred, because if IP law is their specialty, they will have known this in advance. She's gonna pwn them greedsters.
  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @02:03AM (#21137843) Homepage

    Brilliant. One thing you should add, however, is a willingness to pay a small fee for the permission. Surely that's reasonable.

    Of course, if they decide they don't want to take your money because you're small potatoes, it's obviously ironic if they decide to pay a ton of money to lawyers, to sue people over equally small potatoes. But it'd be nice if there were a way to codify that irony into law. That is... unless there's a reasonable means for people to request and receive permission to use copyrighted works, then the RIAA can't sue those small potatoes either. Of course, current copyright law says that it's well within a copyright holder's right to withhold their work for any reason. However, copyright is hopefully shifting towards somewhat more permissive rules these days. And if it does shift that way, hopefully one of the first things to shift would be that if a copyright holder distributes tens of millions of copies of a work, that they can hardly expect the teeming masses to not want to at least minimally interact with that work, and that such a proposal might be reasonable for widely-distributed works.

  • by NottiByNature ( 1180431 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @02:03AM (#21137845)
    That means simply singing or humming his songs would result in us violating copyright protection! There are better artistes elsewhere who will appreciate us appreciating their music.
  • Re:Listen, lady (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 27, 2007 @02:45AM (#21137967)

    If all you wanted was for friends and family to see it, email it JUST TO THEM.

    Multi MB attachments through email? Sorry, not everyone uses gmail. The next best alternative to a site like youtube would be file sharing. Given your initial reaction, I'm sure you'd get your pants in a twist about that too. Do you really think anyone is not going to buy a Prince album or even a Prince track because they'd prefer to listen to only 30 seconds of a track with a baby gurgling and spurting in the audio because it was "free"?

  • by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @03:57AM (#21138213)
    >"He's really intense about this stuff," the source said,
    This is the same one that gave away his last album in the UK as a freebie inside a Sunday paper? Hmm.. What curious values he must have although I guess it may just be that they are artistic rather than financial which is fair enough.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 27, 2007 @04:04AM (#21138223)

    it also says something that nobody even tries to secure permission before putting soundtracks in their youtube videos.

    Because everybody knows that no one succeeds, and permission is never given. These corporations do not believe it's worth their time to bother processing requests like this, so why would they bother to give permission for such things to be posted on youtube?
  • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @04:30AM (#21138313) Homepage Journal
    Prince represents one fairly extreme (and minority, it should also be said) end of the spectrum as far as intellectual property is concerned. At the other end you've got people like Trent Reznor with the comments he made at his concert recently, literally telling people to pirate his music.

    The moral of the story here is that if you're selecting artists to listen to, it might actually be a good idea to try and find out what their individual stance on enforcement is. Some are going to be like Prince, or Metallica. Others are going to be like Trent Reznor. Most, I suspect, will fall somewhere in between, in the sense that while they won't mind fair use to a degree similar to what has traditionally existed with radio, they will still, in the end, quite rightfully expect people to buy CDs of their music. However, I also believe that enforcement needs to be the responsibility of the artist themselves, and not middlemen organisations like the RIAA...because very often the middlemen organisations hold views which are not representative of everyone that they claim to represent.

    One other thing I'd actually like to see some acts offering is the possibility of legal indemnity to individuals who can be proven to have bought copies of their music. In other words, if you buy a copy of a given artist's music, for a contract to exist between you and said artist specifying exactly what it is that you are or are not legally allowed to do with the music you've bought, and as long as you operate within those guidelines, you won't get sued. Different artists are going to have different perspectives on that, so said contracts would actually need to be extremely individual in nature. I'm also not talking about something exactly the same as a software license here, either. I would want to see something where people actually had to provide individual signatures that were recorded along with the date of purchase; not something clickthrough that is untraceable, unenforceable, and can thus be brushed off.

    Someone like Prince would obviously be fairly strict; private, individual listening/viewing only, with no reproduction or secondary performance allowed of any kind whatsoever. At the other end of the spectrum you'd likely get people who'd be willing, once you've paid them, to let you do whatever you wanted, up to and including the creation of derivative works.
  • By the numbers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @05:19AM (#21138549)

    "File-sharing and illegally downloading of music has devastated a once-booming music industry. Some observers say the industry is just trying to protect itself."

    Last time I checked, the industry's profits were still pretty comfortably in the gaziliions range. If by "devastated" they mean "somewhat less outrageous than before," and "our poor execs are having to get by on salaries and bonuses only 30 times as big as the average workingman's salary instead of 50 times as much" then perhaps it's an accurate statement. It's all a matter of proportion -- the more you make, the more you expect. It's like a baseball player making $20 mil a year, then getting insulted because his team wants to pay him "only" $15 mil this year. Corporations and their royalty seem to think that they have a "right" to consistently make as much or more than they did the previous year. I think Average Joe has little sympathy for them (as do I).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 27, 2007 @05:26AM (#21138579)
    The use of the music is as a Historical Document. Her baby is "dancing crazy" to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy". It doesn't appear PLANNED. It appears ad libbed. How is this any different than if a news camera interviewed a fan at a music festival as copyrighted music was heard playing in the background? Should the news crew be forced to censor the audio? Should sporting leagues like the NFL be required to get signed contract permission from cheering fans appearing on broadcasts? If you were to argue there is an implicit contract, then so too must there be an implicit contract of people reacting to sound waves beamed out all over the place in all manner of delivery mechanisms, including radio.

    Must you turn the television and radio OFF to film yourself commenting upon the content being heard and seen ala Beevis and Butthead, ala Mystery Science Theater? Her video is original content. Those corporate shills have no right to dare demand a take down notice, even if she used the whole "Let's Go Crazy" song. The focus is her baby's reaction to the song "Let's Go Crazy". This is not *just* FAIR USE, but FREEDOM OF THE PRESS TRUTH. Nobody can see or hear the real FACTUAL reaction of the baby to "Let's Go Crazy"? To prohibit this is censorship. To prohibit this is to prohibit free expression. To prohibit this is to violate the First Amendment.

    The song is not used to "supplement a video work". The video work is a reaction to a specific song. Use of the song is ESSENTIAL to the video work reaction. To deny the use of the song is to deny the meaning of the video. And that is nothing less than an attempt to bury FACT, an attempt to bury HISTORY. Prince and his copyright holder minions had their chance, had their right to remain silent. Just because somebody utters something does not give them the right to cut off or prohibit the use of another's ears. Copyright be damned! No news station is prohibited from filming fact. And they dare claim copyright on those broadcasts of fact? They don't own peoples' reactions. They don't own peoples' creative responses to prior art. And this woman has a RIGHT to share her crazy dancing baby reacting to any song ever played. If some artist doesn't like it, too bloody bad. Enough of artists freely "stealing" public domain ideas like words and inserting them to abuse and falsely claim copyright on derivative works. /raises Sword +3

    Sound the horns.

    "Chhhhaaaaarrrrggggeee!!!!!!" [Insert Hollywood frontal assault here.]
  • Re:Two words... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chris Graham ( 942108 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @06:12AM (#21138721) Homepage
    Here's a little philosophical question...

    Would it also be fair use if Universal used her baby video for the music video to a new song?

    If not, why not?

    (I have no opinion here, I'm just interested)
  • Re:Tag goodforher ! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bev_tech_rob ( 313485 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @07:35AM (#21138997)
    I found it funny in the video attached to the article that the ABC commentators mentioned that before this dust-up, only about 20-30 people saw the video (mainly family members). After this story broke, it has received THOUSANDS of hits (i.e Streisand effect).....so once again, big music shot itself in the foot....
  • Re:Normally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @08:08AM (#21139119) Homepage
    This isn't about "sue me first. sue you first" this is about the fact that due to RIAA's litigation-happy activities, she was essentially terrorized and intimidated. She was very. very afraid. Who is to blame for that fear and intimidation? The RIAA. Now, for that baseless fear and intimidation, she is going to sue for damages caused.

    There are likely to be many precedents where unfounded fear and intimidation had resulted in damages being awarded by the courts. Her fears are not unwarranted and I believe the will be victorious in this case.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @10:20AM (#21139829) Journal
    Prince is a first class nutbar. Have you read Kevin Smith's story [prince.org] about working with Prince? Still rocks though, so it's all good.
  • by Lunarsight ( 1053230 ) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @12:00PM (#21140439) Homepage
    http://www.youtube.com/user/universalmusicgroup [youtube.com] This is UMG's official Youtube site. They have all the latest music videos their trying to promote available here. Let's teach UMG that karma is a real bitch. We should descend on their Youtube channel like a swarm of locusts, and give the minimum possible number of stars to all their music videos. Pass this along to everyone you know who has a bone to pick with UMG. You might be thinking 'it's a waste of time', but the Grand Canyon was formed from a gradual drip of water over a long period of time. If enough individual users do this, it will begin to affect the overall ratings of the videos in question. If we can't do something this basic against the RIAA, we'll never be able to do anything more elaborate. You have to start somewhere.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta