Thursday, 12 November 2015

Let’s Go Crazy - Copyright-wise

STEPHANIE LENZ V. UNIVERSAL MUSIC CORPORATION
United States Court Of Appeals for The Ninth Circuit Decided On 14.09.2015

SUBJECT: Copyright Law, Fair Use
The law on copyright provides the legal framework not for the protection of the traditional beneficiaries of copyright, the individual author, composer or artist but also for the investment required for the creation of work by the major cultural industries, the publishing, film, broadcasting and recording industries and the computer and software industry. The Copyright Act grants to the owner of the copyright, a number of exclusive rights with respect to the reproduction of the work which enables the owner to obtain financial benefits out of his work. The owner of a copyright is entitled to issue license for the use of its copyright. Any use of this work without the permission of the copyright owner amounts to infringement. However there are certain exceptions to infringement, one of them being fair use or fair dealing. Fair use or fair dealing is the permitted use of a work which is a copyright of another for research or private use, criticism or review or for reporting of current event in the newspaper or in a cinematograph film or my means of a photograph. 
Brief Facts
1.        On the 7th February 2007, Stephanie Lenz, the Plaintiff, uploaded a 29 seconds long home video by her YouTube user profile of her two young children in the family kitchen dancing to the song Let’s Go Crazy by Prince, a music artist. Lenz titled her video as “ ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ #1. ”

2.        Universal Music Corporation, the Defendant, was the publishing administrator responsible for enforcing Prince’s copyrights. Universal assigned one Sean Johnson of their legal department review and evaluate the video of Lenz. Johnson reviewed the video and evaluated that the said video embodied a composition by Prince and stated in his report that the song was recognizable in a significant portion of the video or was the focus of the video. Universal, after being satisfied by Johnson’s report that the song of Prince was the focus of the video, decided that the video should be in the takedown notification list to be sent to YouTube of more than 200 videos. This notice was sent as per the requirements of 17 U.S.C.  § 512 (c)(3)(A)(v) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA which also included the “good faith belief”.

3.        After the receipt of the takedown notification, YouTube removed the said video uploaded by Lenz and send her a mail dated 5th June 2007, notifying her of this removal. Lenz attempted to restore the said video by sending a counter notification to Universal as per § 512(g)(2)(B) of the DCMA on 7th June 2007. Once this notification was placed before Universal by YouTube, Universal protested against the reinstatement of Lenz’s video as Lenz has failed to properly acknowledge that her video amounted to an infringement of Copyright due to the focus of the video being on the song Let’s Go Crazy and that neither she nor YouTube were granted license to reproduce, distribute, publically or otherwise exploit the composition.

4.        Another counter-notification was sent by Lenz dated 27th June 2007 which resulted in the reinstatement of the video by YouTube in mid-July.

5.        Lenz filed the above action and made tortuous interference claims and requested for declaratory relief on 24th July 2007 which was dismissed by the district court. A Second Amendment Complaint was filed by her on 18th April 2008 for misrepresentation of her video as an infringement. Universal’s motion to dismiss the action was denied by the district court. 

6.        The district court held that Universal and other copyright owners must consider “fair use” before issuing takedown notifications of DMCA. It declined Universals claim of dismissing Lenz’s claims of misrepresentation and held that it was a matter of law and several other claims made by Lenz.

Issues for Consideration

The main issues for consideration were:-

1.        Whether summary judgment should be granted in the present case?

2.        Whether the home video made by Lenz amounts to fair use and does her claim for misrepresentation stands?

3.        Whether Universal Music Corporation exercised good faith at the time of taking sending the takedown notification to YouTube with respect to Lenz’s home video?

Decision of the Court
1.        The parties cross motion to grant a summary judgment in this case was denied for action under DMCA alleging that the Defendants violated 17 U.S.C. § 512(f) by misrepresenting in a takedown notification that the Plaintiff’s home video constituted an infringing use of a portion of a composition by artist Prince.

2.        The Court held that the copyright holders have to consider “fair use” before sending a takedown notification diligently. If the copyright holder fails to do so, it raises a question triable before a court of law regarding the intention of such holder.

3.        The Court further stated that the view of a copyright holder is that a particular work does not amount to fair use cannot be disputed by anyone else other than such a holder themselves provided that they formed such an opinion in good faith. The holder has to prove that the impugned work is not fair use in good faith and thus was not authorised by law to be reproduced.

4.        The doctrine of wilful blindness has to be used  in order to determine whether a copyright holder knowingly misrepresented that it had a good faith belief about the work not being one of fair use.

5.        In the present matter the court held that no wilful blindness took place on the part of the Defendants because the Plaintiff was unable to prove that the Defendants subjectively believed that there was a high probability that the video constituted fair use. However, nominal damages were granted to the Plaintiff as the takedown of the impugned video resulted in misrepresentation under § 512(f) of DCMA.

Fair Use v. Fair Dealing

Fair Use is the exception of using a copyright work under the American Copyright Law, DMCA whereas Fair Dealing is the exception, provided under the Copyright Act, 1957, pari materia to fair use.

Fair use is when a copyright is used by reproduction in copies or phonorecords, for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research. The purpose or character of such use cannot be a commercial in nature but can be for non-profit educational purposes as per § 512 of DMCA.

Fair dealing of a copyright work take place for the purpose of research, private use, criticism, review, reporting of the same in the form of current events in newspaper, magazine or periodical or broadcast or in a cinematograph film in the form of a photograph as per section 52(1) of the Copyright Act, 1957.

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