A bouncing YouTube baby has be-bopped his way right into the legal cross-hairs of the pop star Prince, sparking a lawsuit that could test the boundaries of U.S. copyright law.
Holden Lenz, 18 months old, is the pajama-clad star of a 29-second home movie shot by his mother in the family's rural Pennsylvania kitchen and posted last February on the popular video site YouTube.
In the video, the child is seen bouncing and swaying for the camera, as, faintly, the Prince hit "Let's Go Crazy" plays on a CD player in the background.
Twenty eight people, mostly friends and family, had viewed the YouTube video by June, when mom Stephanie Lenz said she received an e-mail from YouTube informing her that her video had been removed from the site at the request of Universal Music Publishing Group, the recording industry's largest label, and warning her that future copyright infringements on her part could force the Web site to cancel her account.
"All of my [YouTube] videos are home videos, so I thought it was some kind of scam,'' Lenz told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit. When she realized YouTube had actually taken her video down, she said she was shocked.
"At first it frightened me, because I saw who had filed'' the takedown notice, she said.
"It was Universal Music Publishing Group, and I was afraid that ... they might come after me. ... And the more afraid I got, the angrier I got. ... I was afraid that the recording industry might come after me the way they've come after other people for downloading music or file sharing.
"I thought even though I didn't do anything wrong that they might want to file some kind of suit against me, take my house, come after me.
"And I didn't like feeling afraid,'' she continued. "I didn't like feeling that I could get in trouble for something as simple as posting a home video for my friends and family to see."
Lenz filed a "counter-notice" with YouTube, and the Web site put her video back up about six weeks later.
But Lenz was angry, and she said she wasn't ready to let it go.
She contacted a leading cyber rights legal organization called the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and filed a civil lawsuit against the music publisher, claiming they were abusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by sending out reams of what are known in the industry as "take down notices" to Web sites like YouTube, claiming their artists' copyrights had been infringed upon -- when in fact, sometimes they may not have been at all.
Universal Music Publishing Group has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, a spokesman said.
File-sharing and illegally downloading of music has devastated a once-booming music industry. Some observers say the industry is just trying to protect itself.
"I think the large copyright holders believe that if they do not police every single use of their copyrighted work -- no matter how benign -- that somehow that will open the floodgates to massive piracy,'' said Gigi Sohn of the Washington think-tank Public Knowledge.
"The problem with that is that viewers, Internet users, consumers, have rights under copyright law as well, and one of those rights is the ability to make fair, lawful uses of copyrighted work, for a variety of reasons," she said.