US top court turns away ‘dancing baby’ copyright case

A still image from a video uploaded on YouTube shows the baby boy of Stephanie Lenz dancing to the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy.” (Courtesy: Stephanie Lenz video via YouTube)
Updated 20 June 2017
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US top court turns away ‘dancing baby’ copyright case

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a closely watched copyright dispute known as the “dancing baby” case over a company’s move to take down a home video posted online showing a toddler joyfully bouncing to the late pop star Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy.”
The case pitted a Pennsylvania woman, Stephanie Lenz, against record company Universal Music Group (UMG), the Vivendi SA-owned unit that enforces Prince’s copyrights. She sued UMG after it directed the video-sharing website YouTube to remove a 29-second video she had posted in 2007 that showed her 13-month-old son dancing to the 1984 song.
The high court left in place a mixed September 2015 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
The legal question focused on whether copyright holders can face damages if they wrongly direct someone to take down content posted online that is protected by the “fair use” doctrine, which allows the use of copyrighted material in some circumstances without the permission of the rights holder.
The appeals court decision could make it harder for copyright holders to remove content that they feel infringes upon copyright-protected works by invoking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 federal law intended to curb movie and music piracy online. Critics contend that abusive takedown notices can suppress the freedom of speech guaranteed under the US Constitution.

Lenz said that when she posted the video that was recorded in her kitchen she thought her family and friends would enjoy seeing the toddler, who had just learned to walk, dance as well. The boy, wearing a red outfit and a happy expression, is seen bouncing to the music while pushing a wheeled walking toy.
But the UMG persuaded YouTube to remove Lenz’s video, citing a good faith belief that the video was unauthorized. Lenz had the video restored, and sued the UMG over the takedown notice, seeking damages.
A US district court in California ruled partly in Lenz’s favor. The ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit. The 9th Circuit said there can be liability if a copyright holder “knowingly misrepresented” in a takedown notice that it had a good-faith belief that a video “did not constitute fair use.” But that decision also said courts should defer to a copyright holder who has a “subjective good-faith belief” to the contrary.


Barack and Michelle’s next act: TV deal with Netflix

Updated 22 May 2018
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Barack and Michelle’s next act: TV deal with Netflix

  • The Obamas will have hands-on involvement in producing content and will appear personally in some of the shows while curating others
  • Under the name Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas have the option to produce scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and feature films

LOS ANGELES: Former US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, have struck a deal to produce films and series for Netflix Inc, the streaming service said on Monday, giving the former first couple a powerful and unprecedented platform to shape their post-White House legacy.
Under the name Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas have the option to produce scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and feature films, Netflix said in a statement.
The Obamas will have hands-on involvement in producing content and will appear personally in some of the shows while curating others, said a person familiar with the deal.
Terms of the multi-year deal were not disclosed and the first of the programming is not expected to reach viewers until about May 2019, the person said.
The agreement between the Obamas and Netflix, which boasts some 125 million subscribers worldwide, is a first for any occupant of the White House.
The closest comparison is former US Vice President Al Gore, whose global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Oscar in 2007. Gore also launched a youth-oriented cable TV network, Current TV, in 2005 but it was sold to Middle-East based Al Jazeera in 2013, which later shut it down.
The Obamas gave no details of the topics they planned to cover but the content is not expected to be directly political.
Barack Obama in a statement recalled the “fascinating people” from all walks of life that he had met during his eight years in office, ending in January 2017.
“We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world,” he added.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement that the Obamas are “uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better.”
The deal with the Obamas also marks one of the biggest coups for Netflix in drawing top-level talent away from traditional Hollywood studios and television networks.
In the past year, Netflix has cut deals with Shonda Rhimes, the woman behind hits like “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and Emmy-winning Ryan Murphy, who created “Glee” and directed the TV series “American Crime Story.”
Netflix, which has budgeted $8 billion for programming in 2018, is also producing Martin Scorsese’s next film starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Barack Obama was the first guest on David Letterman’s return to television in an extended talk show format with Netflix that debuted in January.