“Dancing Baby” lawsuit over; baby is now 12

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a mom was playing some music while home with her kids. A Prince song came on and the youngest, a toddler in a wheeled walker just getting the hang of moving around, started to bop and dance in that adorable way little humans do.

Because it’s the 21st Century, mom posted the video to YouTube.

Eleven years later, the lawsuit filed against her for this less-than-30-second video has been finalized and everyone is parting ways wiser and with a good amount of disbelief.

It’s the infamous “Dancing Baby” case, all over a snippet of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and the weird, wild, murky world of digital rights and what constitutes fair use.

Universal Music Group says it now has a smarter and more “fair” process for when it will issue a takedown notice, demanding someone to remove a YouTube video that might infringe on a copyright the music company owns.

“UMPG takes great pride in protecting the rights of our songwriters,” said David Kokakis, UMPG’s chief counsel, after the agreement was signed. “Inherent in that objective is our desire to take a thoughtful approach to enforcement matters. The Lenz case helped us to develop a fair and tempered process for evaluation of potential takedowns.”

Lenz refers to Stephanie Lenz, the mom who got way more than she bargained for when her kiddo, now 12, did something cute and she instinctively grabbed a camera.

“If UMPG’s current process had been in place 11 years ago when I posted my video of my young son dancing, I probably wouldn’t have had to contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation,” she said, an internet and freedom of speech organization that tried to take her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both of these comments come from a joint statement published June 27. Oddly, there’s no detail in the statement about what UMPG’s current process is, how it’s changed, what’s different and what new steps will be utilized to determine whether there’s justification for issuing a takedown notice.

What we do know is that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in California, agreed that the video should fall under fair use because she wasn’t trying to present the song as a new creation or something brand new at all, it was just her kid dancing around while a Prince song happened to play in the background. The court told Universal at the time that the copyright holder “must consider the existence of fair use before sending a notice.”

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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