Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Universal go crazy

How charming. An eighteen month old boy so liked Prince's Superbowl performance that she started tootling about during Let's Go Crazy. The proud mother grabbed a video camera, and filmed a thirty-second snatch of him dancing, and - as proud mothers tend to - posted it to YouTube.

This is where the story gets less charming. Universal somehow came across the clip and - presumably worried that nobody would want to buy a Prince album if they could download a thirty second bit of one of his songs, muffled in the background of a video of a dancing child - made YouTube take it down.

This, of course, is a nonsense - clearly, the Prince track was merely an incidental copying and not part of an attempt to duplicate his work. The clip is now back on YouTube, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched a lawsuit on the mother's behalf:

"Copyright abuse can shut down online artists, political analysts, or -- as in this case -- ordinary families who simply want to share snippets of their day-to-day lives," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Universal must stop making groundless infringement claims that trample on fair use and free speech."

Exactly so. It's unlikely even this lawsuit will bring back a sense of perspective to the major labels, but it might slow them down a little.


Andrew said...

I hate to say this, but under copyright law, Universal are 100% in the right. If one uploads a video with a copyrighted musical soundtrack, one is legally obliged to obtain a synchronisation licence for the music. The law is completely unambiguous about this, and there is no exemption for home videos.

simon h b said...

No, Andrew, they're not. It's incidental use.

And even if, under the law, there was an unequivocal legal case for Universal to demand a takedown, a company with half a moment's thought would see there was no point. It doesn't threaten their business in any way, it doesn't create a precedent, there's nothing to protect, there's no loss. It's simply heavy-handed and - since the RIAA are always telling us about the music pirates who are funding nuclear bombs and child pornography - you have to wonder why Universal had the time and resource to pursue such a petty piece of fine-print legal activity.

M.C. Glammer said...

So, if I follow a BBC news team about with a ghettoblaster playing my new single and it makes the news in the background to the floods or something, they'll owe me royalties? That's better promo than MySpace. And if I stand in the background miming, how does that work for performance fees?

Anonymous said...

Maybe everyone should write an email to the corporate lawyers and tell them what they think. Try sending it to the guy who we think represents Prince-

Tell him if it's a good idea- or PR nightmare

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