Judge: Fair Use Important Before Takedown

Score one for dancing toddlers on YouTube. Yesterday a federal judge said copyright holders must consider fair use of their works before issuing takedown notices willy-nilly to online video sharing sites. The case being considered involves Universal Music’s takedown of a video featuring Pennsylvania woman’s child dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” From the Threat Level blog:

“Even if Universal is correct that fair use only excuses infringement, the fact remains that fair use is a lawful use of a copyright,” U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled. “Accordingly, in order for a copyright owner to proceed under the DMCA with ‘a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law,’ the owner must evaluate whether the material makes fair use of the copyright.”

Universal stamped its feet, protesting that if it had to actually consider fair use, it would lose precious time in responding to infringements. Fogel was not swayed basically saying while Universal had legitimate concerns, they were probably overstated.

This is the first ruling of its kind and means copyright holders must be more thoughtful before blanketing sites with takedown notices. Recently, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) sent a takedown request over a Tibetan protest video on YouTube. While the video had nothing to do with the games its title was “Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony,” YouTube pushed back on the request and the IOC relented.

More NTV coverage on DMCA issues from this morning: Adware on Pirated Movie Sites Raises Legal Questions