March 07, 2016 Top Story

Copyright Ruling Expands Fair Use on Social Media

Copyright holders must consider fair use prior to takedown notice for online videos

Carl A. Aveni

In a case highlighting the divide between social media platforms and traditional media content-holders, a federal court of appeals held that copyright holders must consider fair use before trying to remove online content. At issue were a 30-year-old pop song, a 29-second home video, and a 13-month-old dancing toddler. Hanging in the balance were the rights of ordinary people to post home videos online and the competing rights of copyright holders when their works get used without permission.

In Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., also known as the “dancing baby” case, the appellate court ruled that copyright holders must weigh whether the content was being used for satire, education, or other fair-use purposes before directing media platforms to remove infringing content. By adding this additional requirement, the decision recalibrates the balance between protected works and homegrown content in the digital age.

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