Universal Music Corp., et al (Universal) owns the copyright to “Let’s Go Crazy,” and in June 2007, sent YouTube a takedown notice under Title II of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (17 U.S.C. § 512), demanding that YouTube remove Lenz’s video from the site for copyright infringement. YouTube removed the video the following day and sent Lenz an email explaining that the removal was in response to Universal’s accusation. YouTube warned Lenz that any repeated incidents of copyright infringement could lead to deletion of her account and all of her videos.
In response, Lenz sent YouTube a DMCA counter-notification under 17 U.S.C. § 512(g), asserting that her video constituted fair use of “Let’s Go Crazy,” did not infringe Universal’s copyrights, and demanded that YouTube re-post the video. YouTube re-posted the video six weeks later, resulting in over 593,000 views.
In September 2007, Prince spoke publicly about his efforts to “reclaim his art on the Internet,” and threatened to sue several Internet service providers for infringement. In October 2007, Universal issued a public statement that it was “wrong” for YouTube to appropriate Prince’s music “as a matter of principle,” and that Prince had a legal right to demand removal.
Lenz sued Universal, arguing that Universal issued the YouTube removal notice only to appease Prince, and alleging in an amended complaint misrepresentation under 17 US.C. §512(f). Her position was that Universal misrepresented in its takedown notice that the use of the copyrighted material was not authorized by the law, because the fair use doctrine authorized this particular use. Universal moved to dismiss Lenz’s amended complaint for failure to state a claim.
In a case of first impression, the District Court (N.D. California) considered whether the DMCA requires a copyright owner to evaluate the fair use doctrine in formulating a good faith belief that “use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.” 17 U.S.C. §512(c)(3)(A)(v).
The Court held that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107, explicitly provides that the fair use of a copyrighted work does not constitute infringement. As such, Lenz’s allegation that Universal acted in bad faith by issuing a takedown notice without proper consideration of the fair use doctrine was sufficient to state a misrepresentation claim under DMCA section 512(f).
Lenz sufficiently alleged that Universal, a sophisticated corporation familiar with copyright actions, acted in bad faith and demonstrated deliberate ignorance of fair use, issuing the takedown notice to mollify Prince. Lenz also adequately alleged a cognizable injury under the DMCA, in that she at least alleged expenses incurred in responding to the takedown notice. The Court suggested that nominal damages may be sufficient.
The Court denied Universal’s motion to dismiss.
Judge(s): Jeremy Fogel, District Court Judge
Related Categories: Civil Procedure , Civil Remedies , Entertainment , Torts
|Plaintiff Lawyer(s)||Plaintiff Law Firm(s)|
|Marcia Hofmann||Electronic Frontier Foundation|
|Michael Kwun||Electronic Frontier Foundation|
|Corynne McSherry||Electronic Frontier Foundation|
|Jason M. Schultz||Electronic Frontier Foundation|
|Defendant Lawyer(s)||Defendant Law Firm(s)|
|Kelly Klaus||Munger Tolles & Olson LLP|
|Amy C. Tovar||Munger Tolles & Olson LLP|