Monday, October 22, 2007

Standing Up To Takedown Notices -

Having written about the Minnesota downloading case (Another view on Minnesota downloading case and Why juries make lawyers nervous), I thought the following Washington Post article an interesting view of this kind of case. Standing Up To Takedown Notices gives us a view of what happens before the lawsuit starts:

"On a chilly February day, Stephanie Lenz decided to show her family and friends what her bouncing baby boy could do. She plopped 13-month-old Holden, then learning to walk, on the floor, cranked up Prince's song 'Let's Go Crazy' and whipped out the digital camera.

In the 29-second YouTube video that resulted, Holden smiles and bobs up and down to the music. According to Universal Music Publishing Group, he also helps his mom commit a federal crime: copyright infringement."

In June, Universal, which owns the rights to Prince's song, sent a notice to YouTube requesting the video be taken down but did not take action against Lenz. On the contrary, Lenz sued Universal for abusing copyright law.

YouTube isn't the only hosting site on which copyright law is sometimes allegedly abused. EBay has been the setting of many of these infringement claims, too, but generally over the "first sale doctrine" -- a portion of copyright law regarding legal resale of licensed goods -- rather than fair use.

Take, for example, Karen Dudnikov and Michael Meadors. They run a mom-and-pop eBay store out of rural Colorado, 10 miles from the nearest power line. When they opened, Dudnikov began sewing pillows, potholders and other items out of fabric with licensed images of cartoon characters and other trademarked or copyrighted images. Soon they found their auctions were being taken down because of infringement allegations.

To date they've taken 15 corporate heavyweights to court -- including Disney Enterprises, Major League Baseball and M&M/Mars -- and gotten them all to back down. Facing off against these legal powerhouses, they represented themselves.

"They think we are just some country bumpkins they can push around," Meadors said. "This is our livelihood, and we stick up for ourselves."

Embroiled in their 16th lawsuit over a Betty Boop fabric, the couple has accepted outside legal help for the first time, from Public Citizen. On the fabric, the cartoon character is wearing a dress that closely resembles a design by artist and fashion designer Ert¿. SevenArts, the British company that owns the rights to Ert¿'s designs, told eBay through a U.S. associate to remove the auction for copyright violation.