Universal has ordered Stephanie Lenz to take down a YouTube video of her young son dancing to Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy.” It seems that the music, barely audible in the background of the clip, is some form of copyright violation.
At first glance, this demand is laughable, but it points to the irreconcilable conflict between content owners and consumers as new tools turn yesterday’s passive media recipients into creators and publishers. Blogs, video editing tools, photo and music sharing sites, and social networks have opened a Pandora’s box of broken copyrights. The biggest irony of all is that Google, the leader in online search, makes billions of dollars annually by displaying clips of content it does not own or have rights to.
So how much sharing is too much? What is fair use? Will content creators face a world of diminishing profits and livelihood, as they are replaced by consumers stealing their ideas or creating substitute materials for free?
Will Stephanie Lenz’s baby stop at nothing?