Fri Feb 26, 2010 @ 12:27PM PST
By Eriq Gardner
How much should a copyright owner pay for improperly telling a web site to remove content?
We've previously highlighted a case
brought by a woman named Stephanie Lenz who posted a YouTube video of her toddler dancing to the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy." After Universal Music Group fired off a letter demanding removal of the clip, Lenz got a judge to declare that her video was a "fair use" of the song. Lenz then sought damages against UMG for sending a meritless takedown request.
UMG fought back by raising affirmative defenses that Lenz had bad faith and unclean hands in pursuing damages.
Now a California district court judge has rejected those arguments, granting partial summary judgment to Lenz and paving the way for Lenz to collect attorneys fees.
The case is important because it raises the question of whether a media company can be held liable for pursuing a takedown without a full consideration of fair use. The decision by the court yesterday is very technical and examines damage claims under 17 USC 512 (f)
, the statutory code that deals with liability when misrepresentations are made about infringing works online.
Our read on the decision is that Lenz can recover legal fees associated with fighting the takedown, but not necessarily fees connected with the cost of pursuing UMG for damages in follow-up litigation. To really sock it to UMG, Lenz would have to make a claim under 17 USC 505
that awards fees at the court's discretion, and to do that, she'll likely need to show UMG knowingly
misrepresented its initial claim.