Prince Plays Montreal Jazz Festival, 2011

Prince Plays Montreal Jazz Festival, 2011

*A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a trial in a copyright lawsuit over a half-minute YouTube video showing a baby dancing to the classic Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy.”

The baby’s mother, Stephanie Lenz, filed the lawsuit after Universal Music sent a notice to YouTube demanding the video be taken down for violating the song’s copyright.

However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that copyright holders can’t demand videos and other content that uses their material be taken down without determining whether they constitute “fair use.”

As CBS.com reports, fair use allows segments of copyrighted works to be used for purposes of criticism, comment or research without a license from the copyright holder. Lenz said the video is fair use, and Universal had failed to consider that before ordering the video taken down.

Big rights-holders like Universal and the RIAA use algorithms to generate DMCA takedowns, Gizmodo reports. But in doing so, they are abusing DMCA by not first considering if use of the material constitutes ‘fair use.’

According to the precedent set in Lenz’s case, rights-holders will have to evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. This means,  no more mass-automated take-down notices, which is a big win for the internet.

In its decision on Monday, the court found that Universal quite possibly “misrepresented” the takedown notice process in Lenz’s case, The Wrap reports.

“Universal faces liability if it knowingly misrepresented in the takedown notification that it had formed a good faith belief the video was not authorized by the law, i.e., did not constitute fair use,” Judge Richard C. Tallman’s opinion reads. “Here, Lenz presented evidence that Universal did not form any subjective belief about the video’s fair use — one way or another — because it failed to consider fair use at all, and knew that it failed to do so.”

Tallman determined that a copyright holder is liable for damages if it doesn’t consider fair use prior to firing off a takedown notification.

“To be clear, if a copyright holder ignores or neglects our unequivocal holding that it must consider fair use before sending a takedown notification, it is liable for damages under § 512(f),” writes Tallman. “If, however, a copyright holder forms a subjective good faith belief the allegedly infringing material does not constitute fair use, we are in no position to dispute the copyright holder’s belief even if we would have reached the opposite conclusion.”

Tallman says it’s up to a jury to “determine whether Universal’s actions were sufficient to form a subjective good faith belief about the video’s fair use or lack thereof.”