Friday, October 26, 2007


"This is just a conspiracy by black people to keep white people from learning how to dance."

Artist now again known as Prince
OK that title is a bit misleading. Prince probably loves cute lil kids, and doesn't mind them dancing to his music. However, a video with just that was the cause of a letter sent to YouTube. It seems that a 29 second video of Holden Lenz dancing in his pjs to Lets Go Crazy that was uploaded to YouTube resulted in legal action by Universal Music Publishing group at Prince's behest.
Twenty eight people, mostly friends and family, had viewed the YouTube video by June, when mom Stephanie Lenz said she received an e-mail from YouTube informing her that her video had been removed from the site at the request of Universal Music Publishing Group, the recording industry's largest label, and warning her that future copyright infringements on her part could force the Web site to cancel her account.
"Prince believes it is wrong for YouTube, or any user-generated site, to appropriate his music without his consent,'' the company said in a statement released to ABC News Thursday. "That position has nothing to do with any particular video that uses his songs. It's simply a matter of principle. And legally, he has the right to have his music removed. We support him and this important principle. That is why, over the last few months, we have asked YouTube to remove thousands of different videos that use Prince music without his permission."
At Ace of Spades HQ, Slublog asked a question about copyright:
I think every parent takes videos of their child dancing to music, and we show them off to relatives so they can coo and compliment at the appropriate times (parents are demanding bastards this way). If I own the rights to that song, then playing it for my child to dance seems a pretty clear case of fair use, especially if I don't use a substantial portion of the created work.

Does my right to fair use change when I record the dancing? Does it change further when I make the video available to friends and family on a hosting platform such as YouTube? Given the shortness of these videos compared to the length of the songs, it seems a stretch for companies like Universal to claim copyright infringement. It's not as though I'm selling these videos or profiting from them at all.
Readers there discussed fair use and copyright law:
I can not see how this video is causing Prince any damages. She is not charging for it so there are no royalties she could pay and this isn't something that Prince charges for and people are getting for free instead.

So I can not understand how this video causes Prince to suffer any monetary damage. If she DIDN'T have the video up, would Prince be making more money?
-by Crosspatch

TO play devil's advocate, it is YouTube that profits here, vids like this that get good traffic allow them to make even more moolah.
-by MBruce

This transcends the RIAA---it was the artist who instigated the takedown. His label executed the takedown for him.

One day soon, the artists will be completely bypassing current distribution methods, so I see this as an example of an artist getting ahead of the curve and (zealously) protecting his property.

The time will come when recording artists are independent distributors of thier own content and the lines need to be very clear as to whether a video of them stroking a giant throbbing c**kguitar during the Superbowl halftime show is protected.
-by Cuffy Meigs

Being one of the few who defend artist's copywrite protections in previous incarnations of the debate, I figure I'll throw out my 2 cents here.

I don't know that Prince has one of his miniature legs to stand on here in this specific case... fair-use and all. The music wasn't the subject of the video at that.

In a vacuum it appears he's being over-sensitive in this particular case, but it seems this vid just got bundled up into a larger complaint he made over outright copywrite abuses by YT.

Anecdotally it serves as a good example of an over-sensitive, preening artist, but taken in context, I think that argument falls apart.
-by Egon

My family and I lived for several years off my dh's royalties, so I do have a personal stake in this discussion.

One problem with copyright law is that the owner can lose his rights if he fails to aggressively defend them. If some asshole decides he'd like to use all of "Let's Get Crazy" without permission or payment, Mr. Asshole's attorneys can and most certainly will claim that if Prince knew that videos of little kids dancing to his music were online and he did nothing about it, he had already forfeited his copyright interests in the song.
-by VKI

I guess I would ask whether YouTube is any more culpable in copyright violation than companies that make blank CD-Rs or videocassettes, sales during which the companies in question profit.
The question is whether YouTube is more like a videocassette manufacturer or a P2P file-sharer.

Videocassette manufacturers are not contributory infringers because (1) their product has multiple non-infringing uses and (2) even when copying of protected works occurs, such copying is permissible under fair use. Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (1984).

P2P file-sharers (and Napster-type sharers) are contributory infringers when there is evidence that there are few non-infringing uses and an intent on the part of the P2P company that the technology be aimed at bringing about infringement. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster (2005).

So things like BitTorrent (legitimate research uses, no intent to infringe shown) and YouTube (multiple non-infringing uses, no intent shown) are likely protected. YouTube can also hold up its vigorous policing of infringement claims by copyright holders and its multiple warnings not to post copyrighted material to show that it never has had an intent to infringe.

That said, this case does not even reach that far. The woman's use is solidly within the ambit of fair use. It's noncommercial and used as background in a different medium. A small portion was used in relation to the work as a whole and it hasn't had an effect on the value of the copyrighted work.

Yes, YouTube is always quick to delete videos when a claim of infringement is made, and, yes, Universal should have known that hers was a fair use. On the other hand, the EFF is just using this woman to push back against what it views as copyright holders expanding enforcement. The real test of this is if it settles. Universal will want to settle quickly, but EFF, in its zealotry, may refuse.
-by Gabriel Malor
As of this writing, more than 125,000 people have viewed the video. Way to prevent it from being viewed for free. This came up in the comments, but someone owns Happy Birthday, the song people sing. Technically every time a business sings this they are violating copyright law. That's why restaurants have their own songs usually for their obnoxious "gather around and annoy the customers" birthday ceremony.

Now, this small bit of a song tinny and not the focus of the video falls clearly under the "fair use" part of copyright law, which essentially states that you can use portions of copyrighted material. It's why you can quote portions of books and show bits of TV shows or songs without paying the people who came up with the material. The exact amount you're free to use varies by the medium, but this video falls within it rather easily, as I understand the law.

Prince is a very talented guy and he's apparently very careful with his money too - apparently he learned from David Bowie. I suspect Prince went through and found every single video on YouTube that had any of his songs in them and told the company to take them down, but didn't actually spend time checking them. Fine, that's not exactly his job, but the lawyers he hires and the record label... that is their job.

Remember back when he changed his name to an androgynous looking glyph? He did so because the record company he used to work for owned all his music and he wanted to own his work. He wrote SLAVE on his cheek and changed his name so that he wasn't known as Prince any more to fight it. Eventually he won - this guy is serious about owning and getting fair payment for his work, something I respect. The problem is the recording industry is a bit more zealous in their pursuit of this kind of thing than they really ought to be, and this is one more example of it.

Finally, the woman that got this letter is now suing Universal (with the Electronic Freedom Foundation) because of their letters. I don't know if there's any legal basis for suing someone for overzealous legal action, but it seems valid. At the same time, I'm a bit tired of lawsuits over everything and I'm not sure this is the best way to approach the problem. Maybe that's all a company like Universal will listen to but I suspect they won't be bothered by this effort.

Like I've said in the past several times, we need a new concept of copyright in the digital millennium.
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Anonymous President Friedman said...

Well, I don't have much to add to the commentary on this one, but since the subject of cute kids dancing came up, allow me to submit this clip from my cousin's wedding we attended in Colorado this summer. I doubt that Badly Bent, the excellent bluegrass band who provided the evening's entertainment, would mind the free publicity.

That's my daughter with all the slick moves.

12:23 PM, October 26, 2007  
Blogger Huck said...

Quite a dancer, she is! I think that little boy she's dancing with doesn't know quite what hit him! What's with all the hula hoops, though?

1:40 PM, October 26, 2007  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Cut kids, but yeah I gotta ask about the hula hoops too!

I think girls are natural dancers, it just is something that comes to them much easier.

1:51 PM, October 26, 2007  
Anonymous President Friedman said...

Regarding the hoola hoops, I don't know whose idea those were, but the bridesmaids had made about 20 of them from stuff they bought at the lumberyard and they were a big hit.

It was pretty much a hippy wedding. We counted the references during the ceremony: there was Christian, Hindu, Wiccan, Native American, and something called Festivarian that I think they made up, but it was all put together very well and centered around bringing together their freinds and family from all over the country to celebrate their commitment to eachother. At any rate, it was the best time I've ever had a wedding, further cementing my cousin and her husband's status as two of my favorite people in the word.

I was honored to play the wedding march on my guitar as they walked down the aise (well, it was outside, so technically there was no aisle, but I was honored just the same).

2:13 PM, October 26, 2007  

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