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A Real Threat


What do you hear when you play the Prince song, “Let’s Go Crazy?” Perhaps it’s a standard Twin-Cities-soul-inspired, Purple Rain-era groove with plenty of synthesized wizardry and gospel chord changes. Me, I hear the sound of liberty dying.

“Let’s Go Crazy,” was the tune playing in the background in Stephanie Lenz’s video of her toddler dancing to his heart’s delight. It was playing on the radio, and got the little baby’s booty all a-shakin’.

Lenz captured 29 seconds of the far-too-sweet-for-diabetics montage and posted it to YouTube.com. It wasn’t long before the copyright police at Universal Music Publishing Group got their booties whipped into a frenzy as well, and they fired off a Digital Millennium Copyrights Act takedown notice to YouTube who complied with a quickness.

But homemaker Lenz didn’t roll over as easily as the wimps at YouTube did. She joined forces with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (those stalwart defenders of electronic liberty), and they filed suit against Universal Music Publishing Group, requesting a federal court to protect her fair use and free speech rights on July 24. The takedown notice certainly didn’t pass the Fair Use test as most would see it.

“Universals’ Takedown Notice doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” said Corynne McSherry, staff attorney in a report published by the EFF.

She’s not just whistlin’ Dixie here. (Note to any litigation-happy copyright lawyers: the song “I Wish I Was in Dixie” is in public domain. Step away from your pen.)

The fair use test is a four-part doctrine from the Copyright Act of 1976:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. The nature of the copyrighted work;

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Let’s see now:
1. Well, Lenz put the video out for her friends and family to see, and didn’t charge a dime for the downloads, regardless of how cute the kid was.

2. The nature of the work is music, which is, by design, intended to get booties a-shakin’, be they baby booties or
full-grown booties.

3. The album cut of “Let’s Go Crazy” is 4 minutes and 49 seconds long. Lenz’s video was only 29 seconds. That amounts to about 10 percent. Not much there.

4. Well, I was going to rush out and buy a copy of “Let’s Go Crazy” on iTunes, but now that I have 29 seconds of the song, recorded on a video as it played several feet away on a low-end radio, I have no need. Right.

Four points to this test. UMPG doesn’t pass one. Someone needs to put big business copyright bullies in their place soon.
It was just a song, Universal. Not something you should be adopting as a mission statement.

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