Universal Claiming Dancing Baby Video Not An Obvious Case Of Fair Use
from the oh-really-now? dept
We had just been discussing a lawsuit in South Korea that appeared to be quite similar to the infamous Lenz case, in the US. If you don’t recall, that case involved Universal Music issuing a DMCA takedown after a mother posted a 29-second video of her toddler dancing to the radio where a Prince song was playing. While Universal Music did not contest the counternotice of the woman, the woman (with the help of the EFF) sued Universal, claiming that it violated the DMCA in issuing a takedown on a video that was obviously fair use.
Universal claimed that since fair use is “just a defense” under the law, and not (technically) a “right,” that it had no obligation to consider fair use before issuing a takedown. Thankfully, the judge disagreed. That wasn’t everything, though, as this case has dragged on and on for years since then, as the EFF and Lenz sought to make Universal actually liable for damages for filing a bogus DMCA takedown. Earlier this year, the court ruled that damages were available, but quite limited.
The latest part of the case is that both sides have filed for summary judgment, with Lenz arguing that the takedown violated the law, since Universal did not believe in good faith that the video was infringing (as required by the law). Universal’s motion, on the other hand, makes the argument that the 29-second video is not an obvious case of fair use. It still argues that there’s no requirement to check for fair use first, but says that even if it’s supposed to, this video was not obviously fair use.
Now, before we get into the reasons that Universal gives, it’s worth looking at the video itself, so here you go:
From there, though, Universal goes on to make the argument that it did consider it, and it still doesn’t seem to think the video is fair use. But its analysis here is really weak. It claims that this was a “commercial use,” because it was posted on YouTube, a commercial site. But that’s blaming the wrong party. It was not a commercial use for the person actually uploading the video, Ms. Lenz. Universal then argues that the video is not transformative, but again that doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s not as if this video’s purpose is anything like the purpose of the original song. In terms of “the nature of the work,” Universal says that because it’s music, it’s protected — but that’s only a part of the analysis. The video has the song in it, but it’s not “the song.” So it should be the nature of video that’s analyzed, not the nature of the song. And the nature of the video is that it was a silly home video, obviously for personal, non-commercial use. As for “the amount of the work,” again, Universal shifts what it looks at. It says since the song appears in the whole video, then it weighs against fair use. But, again, it’s looking at the wrong thing. Here, the question is the amount of the original work, and in this case it’s 29 seconds of a much longer song (something Universal ignores). Finally, the big one: the commercial impact of the video, much of Universal’s reasoning is redacted, but it appears its argument is that Universal/Prince could sell the right to use the song in videos. That seems pretty weak. No one is going to pay for a song in a video like this.
Just the fact that we need to have a big legal fight over whether or not the video above is fair use is really sad. Any copyright law that doesn’t immediately consider that kind of use fair use is broken. In the meantime, I’m curious if someone at Universal Music could enlighten us to what would be considered fair use in its mind?