‘Dancing baby’ case from 2007 ends after settlement

The so-called dancing baby case, which has been going on since 2007, has come to an end due to a settlement between the plaintiff Stephanie Lenz and Universal Music Group. The case concerns music that could be heard in the background of a YouTube video and the concept of fair use.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supported Lenz in this case, writes that probably no one expected the case to go on for so long. However, this has now come to an end through a settlement: it has been agreed that Lenz will drop her complaint and that both parties will bear their own legal costs. According to the EFF, the procedure has contributed to ‘a stronger fair use right’. Lenz argues that Universal’s takedown procedures are now much better and that if they had been ten years ago, she would never have had to file a case.

The case revolves around a video that Lenz put on YouTube in 2007. In it, a baby can be seen dancing to a song that is playing in the background. The song is ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ by Prince. That resulted in a takedown request by Universal for Lenz. Lenz opposed this by stating that the presence of the song in the video amounts to fair use. This is a US copyright exception that allows unauthorized use of material in certain cases.

In the end, Lenz and the EFF won in 2015, in that the judge said that rightholders must first check whether there is fair use for sending a takedown request. However, the judge also ruled that sending such a request is allowed as long as the rightholder is convinced that the use of protected material is unlawful. According to the EFF, this amounted to too subjective a standard; the organization therefore wanted the highest American judge to rule on the case. However, he refused that request, and the case was returned to the lower court. Instead of continuing to litigate, the decision has now been made to reach a settlement.

The EFF argues that the Lenz case will make judges see fair use as an instrument to achieve the ‘actual purpose of copyright’, which is to ‘promote the public interest of creativity and innovation’.

The dancing baby, who is now in high school