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Tentative Settlement Reached In Video Of Baby Grooving To Prince Song


A seemingly innocuous YouTube video of a 13-month-old baby dancing to Prince set off a major legal fight involving huge corporations, mega pop stars, even the federal government. As NPR's Andrew Limbong reports, it looks like, after a decade, the battle could finally be over.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: It's February 2007, and a toddler is gripping onto a Fisher-Price stroller, sort of jumping up and down. His slightly older sister is running around him. And a song by Prince, "Let's Go Crazy," is playing in the background.


STEPHANIE LENZ: What do you think of the music?

LIMBONG: Their mom, Stephanie Lenz, did what a lot of parents would do. She filmed it then posted it to YouTube for family and friends to watch.


LIMBONG: Despite the fact that you can barely hear the song, Universal Media Publishing Group, which owns Prince's music, asked YouTube to take down the video, saying it was an infringement of copyright. Prince was famously protective of his music online. YouTube complied, and Stephanie Lenz fought back. With the backing of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, she argued that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, she was well within her rights to post the video. Neither the EFF nor the Universal Media Publishing Group responded to requests for an interview.

Anyway, the cases bounced around in courts until 2015, when she won - sort of. Here's Shontavia Johnson, an intellectual property lawyer and administrator at Clemson University.

SHONTAVIA JOHNSON: Ultimately, a federal court had said, if a copyright holder wants to send one of these takedown notices to an online service provider, they can't just do that without considering the law, without considering whether or not fair use applies.

LIMBONG: Broadly defined, fair use means you can use someone's intellectual property, provided you follow certain rules, including how you use it, how much you use and whether or not it will harm the copyright holder in the market. For example, because we're using it in a news broadcast about the case, we can play a little bit of the song.


PRINCE: (Singing) Oh, no - let's go. Let's go crazy...

LIMBONG: So Shontavia Johnson says big companies can't just send takedown notices willy-nilly.

JOHNSON: What the federal law says after this case is the copyright holder has to have a subjective, good faith belief that this material is infringing and not allowed by fair use.

LIMBONG: But the lack of good faith has to be proven by the alleged copyright infringer. So mom Stephanie Lenz and the EFF tried to take the case to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it following a recommendation from the Trump administration. Finally, on Wednesday, court records show that the parties told a magistrate judge that a settlement has been reached pending final approval.

The dancing baby video was still up on YouTube when this story was filed, along with others from Holden Lenz's childhood.


S. LENZ: Who's that baby?

HOLDEN LENZ: (Gurgling, blowing raspberries).

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.