After ten years and what must be thousands of attorney hours, the “Dancing Baby” case may have to do an about-face at the steps of the Supreme Court and, get this, actually go to trial. On May 5, the Solicitor General filed its brief recommending that SOCTUS deny a writ of certiorari in Lenz v. UMG, finding no basis for this Court to address the following question:
Whether a copyright owner may be held liable under Section 512(f) [of the DMCA] for sending a notification of claimed infringement based on a sincere but unreasonable belief that the challenged material is infringing.
At this point, the artist whose work was at the center of this case has been lost to the world (about this time last year); the baby is now a tween; and the case remains a hypocrisy-rich boondoggle, from its overall justification, to the particulars of the argument that the EFF has pursued, to the unavoidable misperception by some of the public that Prince personally bullied a fan.
Regarding the underlying rationale for Lenz, in the decade since it began (and not as a DMCA case by the way), no party has presented any solid evidence that rampant abuse of the DMCA takedown provision even exists. Yet, this has been the rationale and lead talking point riding on Prince’s purple coattails, trading on his fame to spotlight an incident that makes a poor example of actual abuse. Of course, the better examples don’t involve pop stars, cute babies, or major music labels.
The central hypocrisy in Lenz, other than the decade-long fishing expedition, which I tried to summarize in this post, is that the EFF has gone to great lengths to argue that a rights holder should be held to a very high standard of “knowledge” while the organization conversely advocates that no platform owner or ISP can ever know about infringement, or much of anything else, that occurs via their services. In simple terms, the EFF asserts that if defendant UMG did not conduct a fair use analysis of the “dancing baby” video, that this fault alone meets the statutory definition of “knowing misrepresentation,” which is a much stricter standard than general error.