The question of fair use and fair trade is a hotly contested subject in publishing today, as we’ve seen from our discussions during emerging leaders week, as well as with other guests in previous classes. This post will be focusing on the case of Lenz v. Universal Music Corp or the ‘dancing baby’ case. This case followed the experience of a mother who posted a 27 second video featuring her child dancing to the artist formerly known as Prince’s song ‘Let’s Get Crazy’ for approximately 20 seconds (“Lenz”). The video and audio were reported as being fairly bad quality and the music could apparently barely be heard distinctly in the video.
Universal Music Corp. which held the copyright to ‘Let’s Get Crazy’ issued a request that the video be taken down, which Youtube agreed to do. Lenz replied to youtube, stating that the song’s use was covered under fair use and youtube agreed, reposting the video online. However, this was not the end of the story. Elmo Keep writes that the artist formerly known as Prince declared that he was going to “‘reclaim his art on the internet’ and planned to sue The Pirate Bay, eBay, and others. He also hired Web Sherriff, a company that specializes in wiping copyrighted content from the web, and went about doing just that—thousands of videos with Prince’s music in them disappeared from the internet” (Keep). Both Universal Music Corp (with Prince) and Lenz appeared in court, with UMC arguing that the video was a copyright infringement and Lenz arguing that it was fair use. The court sided with Lenz, allowing the video to reposted on youtube. The video is linked below– it is truly a sight to behold.
As much as I love Prince, I have to agree with the court’s decision here. The video is clearly fair use and it is strange to me that UMC and TAFKA Prince decided that this was a venture worthy of their time and money. To me, this seems like more of a publicity stunt by TAFKA Prince to raise awareness for piracy on the internet and to reclaim his brand. This case happened in 2007, when Prince was just beginning to re-enter the public spotlight (2007 was when Prince played an AMAZING half time show at the Super Bowl, see video below) and I think that this particular case might have been a bit of a promotion stunt in order to enter the public conscious again.
Keep, Elmo. “Why Prince Didn’t Want His Music on the Internet.” Splinter. July 24, 2017. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://splinternews.com/why-prince-didnt-want-his-music-on-the-internet-1793856339.
“Lenz v. Universal Music Corp.” Wikipedia. February 17, 2019. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenz_v._Universal_Music_Corp.