How the Court Ruling on Fair Use of Copyrighted Content Reflects on Millennials

Digital media has created a vacuum in which laws regarding copyrights have become unclear. Sites such as YouTube, as well as more blatant copyright issues such as Bitorrent sites like Pirate Bay, have caused the music and movie industries to recalculate how they protect their intellectual properties.

A recent court ruling is a great example of this. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found in favor of a woman whose video, “Let’s go crazy #1” which featured her son dancing to the Prince song of the same name. After the video was uploaded, Stephanie Lenzhad her video taken down at the insistence of Universal Music Group.

Not only did Stephanie get the video put back up, she sued Universal for issuing a take down notice knowing it was not warranted… and the court ruled in her favor.


The strongest defense for Stephanie was the law called “Fair Use.” Fair Use allows someone to use copyrighted material for certain things such as news, commentary, criticism, and parody.

So it seems that anyone familiar with the Fair Use laws would know that Universal was not right in their assertion that the video should be taken down. It is for this reason that the court ruled against them. According to the ruling, Universal (and other copyright owners) must consider fair use before trying to remove content from the Internet. The operative word here is consider, as it seems that these kind of take down notices are sent out in blasts without much thought about the circumstances.


In the case of Ms. Lenz, it’s entirely likely that she didn’t even consider the possibility that using a copyrighted song would get her into trouble. I mean why would Universal ever even be watching her videos, right?

The truth is, Stephanie certainly meant no harm in posting her video, she just wanted to make her family and friends laugh. Isn’t that why people post silly things on YouTube in the first place?

Now that everyone has the ability to record videos with their phones, any moment in life can become a shareable video. This has defined the millennial generation – it is the generation that can find and share any kind of content they wish. The fact that Universal would even care about what’s on YouTube speaks to the incredible influence its content has.


Fair Use has been used by nearly every online blog, news outlet, not to mention product reviews online. YouTube is rife with videos that include copyrighted content in the way Stephanie’s video did.

Think about if every blog post you read on TechCrunch was under threat of being removed for violating copyright laws? It would threaten the very way we all go through our daily lives. If the thought of this scares you, then you understand what’s at risk.


Trust is truly the currency of influencer video these days. The greater the trust a creator is able to convey, the more influencer their opinion will have. In fact, millennials trust content created by their peers 50% more than coming from brands/professionals.

So what does this mean for influencer video? It is just another example of how powerful a medium YouTube and other social channels are; how important they are to shaping the way we think about things, and how pervasive it is throughout our culture.


With the advent of digital channels such as YouTube, and the emergence of video influencers, they have the freedom to seek out knowledge on their own terms, and without bias.

Without the ability for news outlets, social channels, online videos etc. to include “Fair Use” material, we would be forced to revert back to the days when all information, content, knowledge came from the companies advertising to you or the government.

There will be more cases like Stephanie’s in the future. The trend will further cement influencer marketing as a crucial tool for brands to leverage. As consumers rely more and more on opinions of their peers, brands need to get their message out there through the voice of someone they can relate to.