A Study in Fair Trade

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.

Work Cited

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.


3 Replies to “A Study in Fair Trade”

  1. I really love this post, Moorea! It’s concise, informative, and interesting. I think gave a really thoughtful response to this case. I totally agree with your conclusion that this was probably an effort to raise awareness against Internet piracy, though I wonder if maybe it was also to make an example out of this particular case? That they went after Lenz because they’d thought the courts would have been sympathetic.

    I also think that your summary was awesome. This is super nit-picky, because you did a great job with it, but I would’ve loved to know if the video was viral! Was that the reason UMC found it on Youtube in the first place? Or was it just luck of the draw? Though I totally get that adding these details adds to word count. Speaking a little bit about the general implications of fair use and copyright would’ve also been cool, but again that’s a nit-picky crit–and totally get that words are limited!

    Thanks for the enjoyable read! (And the video was so cute!)

  2. I really loved this reflection. Your summary of the case was brief but succinct, the writing was strong, and you clearly argued your point of view. I also enjoyed the video, so thank you for sharing it. The whole issue of this case is amusing, and I find your point about the chances that it was used a scapegoat of sorts to be very insightful. I agree with Alex that the issue of whether it was viral is relevant, but even then, there are factors like the fact it obviously isn’t competing in the market with Prince, and there likely was no monetary factor, so it is a strange case.

  3. This was a famous case that I remember hearing about at the time, even though I was not paying attention to copyright cases. I think you are right to question on what basis UMC was trying to argue this case, as it seems unlikely that something like this would not be considered infringement. However, you can imagine how a similar video with greater audio quality and a longer snippet would begin to blur the lines? People go to YT so often for songs that there is a “Youtube Music.” So where is that line?

    This whole thing reminded me of the Lisztomania thing recently. Just shared it out with the group.

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