How a dancing baby video could change copyright law

After reviewing Lenz’s video, based on the fact that Let’s Go crazy played loudly throughout the entire video, the title of the clip and Lenz asking one of her children whether he liked the song, Universal concluded that the Prince song was “very much the focus of the video” and sent a takedown notice to YouTube.


Thanks to a simple viral YouTube video of a toddler dancing to Prince’s Let’s Go crazy, record labels will have to think twice before demanding users take down videos featuring copyrighted content. And yesterday, an appeals court in San Francisco ruled in her favor.

For more on this case we turn to Elie Mystal, an editor at Above the Law, editor-at-large of Breaking Media, and the managing editor of ATL Redline.

The 29-second “Dancing Baby” video was put up in February 2007 but was put down after a few months.

Universal said it considered fair use and still determined the use of Prince’s song in the video was unauthorized. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.

The latest appeal court ruling on the dispute in theory provides some clarification, though with plenty of room for interpretation, which is always fun. When it comes to a paragraph or two from a book or an essay, it’s fairly easy to show that you’re simply providing an example with a link to the full material at the owner’s site and then publishing your own thoughts on the same topic.

The ruling is certainly happy news for Lenz, who has been battling with Universal since they initially took down her video in 2007. He was part of the team that represented Lenz in this case. The video was among more than 200 that Universal said should be taken down because of copyright violations. The Court remanded for further proceedings since a jury would need to determine whether Universal’s actions were sufficient to form a subjective good faith belief about the video’s fair use or lack thereof.

Finally, the Court held that a plaintiff may seek recovery of nominal damages for an injury incurred as a result of an improper takedown notice under Section 512(f). “[But] a copyright holder who pays lip service to the consideration of fair use by claiming it formed a good faith belief when there is evidence to the contrary is still subject to liability”.


“I struggle with, how anyone looking at this… could view it as anything other than fair use,” Smith said during the oral arguments hearing in July. It was undisputed that Universal did not consider fair use before sending the takedown notice. If a company was sued by an uploader over a wrongful takedown request, it would be a reasonable defense on their part to explain that any algorithm used was constructed to, “in good faith“, attempt to consider that work’s employment of fair use. It was a blow to companies that send out those take down notices by the hundreds and tips the scale toward those posting others’ work.

Judge rules against Universal