Harlem Shake Song’s Copyright Problems
March 25 (Bloomberg Law) — Because you’re watching this on the Internet you have undoubtedly seen Harlem Shake videos.
And you’re likely sick of them. There are more than 60,000 of them, and they’ve been watched more than 200 million times. The song itself, by Brooklyn-based producer Baauer, has been purchased more than 1 million times, topping Billboard’s Hot 100 chart four weeks in a row.
If you’re a lawyer you might be thinking that is potentially a whole lot of copyright infringement. It turns out, you’re right.
The 30 seconds of the song that’s used in the videos contains at least two unlicensed clips: Hector Delgado sings “Con los terroristas” and Jayson Musson sings “Do the Harlem shake.” Now the sampled recording artists want to get paid.
As we noted in this video, most record companies license samples before releasing new music. But small labels, like the one behind Harlem Shake, often rely on music producers, not lawyers, to vet samples.
With legal action threatened, Baauer just may join MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and Biz Markie in the sampling lawsuit hall of fame.