Stephanie Lenz of Gallitzin, Pa., thought it might be fun last year to film her 13-month-old son Holden zipping around the kitchen while a Prince:fifixqr5ldhe single from the 1980s played in the background. Then she did what she'd done with several home videos of her toddlers playing or cavorting to music: She posted the half-minute clip of Holden to YouTube so friends and family could see it. Four months later, Universal Music Publishing Group sent YouTube a letter demanding the removal of nearly 200 videos involving Prince songs, including Lenz's, on the grounds that the clips violated copyrights.
The removal of Lenz's dancing-baby video prompted a courtroom battle over how copyright holders defend their property online, and particularly on sites such as YouTube that rely on consumers to supply most of the content. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology advocacy group, accused Universal of making a misleading claim of infringement because Lenz used an excerpt from Prince's "Let’s Go Crazy:h9fpxqr5ldfe" legally. Specifically, the group's lawyers contended, the fuzzy mini-movie was a clear example of "fair use" -- a limitation in federal copyright law that allows copyrighted material to be used in news reports, commentaries, educational materials, parodies and some noncommercial contexts.