Copyright And The Harlem Shake: Selective Enforcement

from the use-it-share-it,-except...-you dept

For those of you who have managed to avoid the viral sensation of February, known as "The Harlem Shake," consider yourselves lucky. People still seem at a total loss how this became "a thing," but it involves the opening 30 seconds of a song released nearly a year ago, called The Harlem Shake, by Baauer, with the first half involving someone in a wacky costume (often involving a helmet) dancing while others around them ignore it, followed by a bass drop and suddenly everyone around is dancing crazily, often involving costumes, stuffed animals (or real animals), people in sleeping bags and much much more. It's gone quite insane (and, yes, we know it's not "the real Harlem Shake" but so what?) with way, way, way, way too many people, companies and organizations all doing their own versions. There were reports of 4,000 Harlem Shake videos being uploaded to YouTube every single day, and over 60,000 being on YouTube already. If you want (and I warn you to be careful), you can spend hours going through video after video. The KnowYourMeme link up top has collected some of the most popular ones. I cannot vouch for how many such videos it takes before you are driven insane, so be forewarned.

For those who have not seen them, this video was basically the first, but this one that quickly followed it more or less established the basic parameters of the meme.



Over the weekend Baauer's song hit number one on the charts and it appears to be doing fairly well around the globe. Also, the song has resulted in a sold out show in NY for Baauer and what is likely to be a fair bit of money. That's because, rather than freak out about others using "his" song (which includes a bunch of samples), Baauer and his label Mad Decent have a deal with INDmusic, which helps indie labels/musicians claim YouTube videos via ContentID and place ads on them. So, combine a top selling song on iTunes, plus allowing the free use of it on YouTube (and monetizing it via ads) and it seems like a tidy profit is being made.

So, for a bit, this was looking like yet another story of how letting people build something on your music was enabling a nice way for one artist to make money, without flipping out about "copyright infringement." But... then we learned that it wasn't quite that simple. As highlighted by The Verge, while Mad Decent and Baauer have mostly let people do what they want with the song, they did send a takedown to Soundcloud over Azelia Banks posting her lyrics over the entire Baauer track, and also posting a video:



That quickly turned into a bit of a Twitter fight, with Banks calling out Baauer:
And, from there we get the following exchange:
Of course, it seemed like there absolutely had to be more to this, as it was unlikely that Banks put together that song and video so quickly after the meme took off (especially since the video doesn't reference the meme at all). Indeed, in an interview with the Daily Beast Baauer (real name: Harry Rodrigues) explains:
“I’m not happy about it,” says Baauer. “She had a version that we were going to release because I’m a big fan of hers. We knew she likes to beef with producers. So she laid something on ‘Harlem Shake’ and it was so/so. Didn’t love it. And that was a little while ago, and since all this video stuff happened, our plans all changed. Because of that, we decided to just release the song on it’s own with no vocal version. So we told her, ‘Please don’t release your version.’ And she said, ‘Well, I’m going to put it online anyway.’ And we said, ‘Please don’t. We’d really like it if you didn’t.’ And she did.”
Still, while lots of folks are defending Baauer here (in part because Banks does have a reputation for getting into arguments with people, and in part because she also went on a homophobic rant), she did have a point when she tweeted this:
Art is supposed to be inspiring, and you should be happy when someone is inspired by your art. In fact, one might argue that Baauer's statement to Banks that "its not ur song" could potentially come back to bite him as well. In that same Daily Beast interview, he talks about how he created the song:
“I just had the idea of taking a Dutch house squeaky-high synth and putting it over a hip-hop track,” he says. “And then I tried to just make it the most stand-out, flashy track that would get anyone’s attention, so put as many sounds and weird shit in there as I could. The dude in the beginning I got somewhere off the Internet, I don’t even know where, and the lion roar just makes no sense.” He laughs. “There’s the sound of flames in there, too, it’s just really low.”
He doesn't know where the "dude in the beginning" comes from -- though, the folks at Reddit have figured it out (because Reddit knows everything). You have to imagine that wasn't licensed, though, if he didn't know where it was from. Who knows about all of the other samples. Personally, I think it's great that he created something by building on the works of others, and was inspired to create something that has become such a huge hit. But you'd think that someone who made the song by pulling bits and pieces from others wouldn't be so fast to sling claims of "ownership" back at someone else who built off of his work. Yes, there's more to it than that and, for the most part, Baauer seems reasonably giddy with all the insanity (and he definitely seemed to do a nice job with his Reddit AMA thanks in particular to this exchange).

It would just be nice if artists who really build on the works of others didn't jump to claiming ownership when others build on their works as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 6:43am

    I would love it if Bob et al would answers this one simple question.

    You have always said you're fine with artists choosing if they want to release their work for free. Given that, there must be services available that they can use easily, like Youtube and Piratebay. If, as per your wishes, those sites were shut down over copyright concerns...how then is the artist supposed to be able to choose to release their work for free? In essence...you've made the choice for them. You're not giving them the opportunity to choose for themselves, you're restricting them to the option of either the music labels or nothing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    This is an interesting tangent. However, it is a tangent.

    It seems hypocritical of Baauer to brag about the sampling, then say that he didn't like that version, so he took it down. In my opinion, there should be a genuine neutrality between people who create and people who adapt.

     

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  3.  
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    Vidiot (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    Cordial Twitter exchange?

    Whole lotta LOL'in goin' on.


    At least they can laugh. Or LMFAO, as it were.

     

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  4.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    I like her video better...

    because I am a guy that can see. :)

     

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  5.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:40am

    Who else finds that Harlem Shake bollocks annoying?

    It's right up there with Gangnam Style.

     

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  6.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    Controversy gets coverage

    I'm noticing that while Techdirt advocates playing nice with copyright, trademark, and media coverage issues, many of the highlighted examples are about fights of one sort or another that then generate lots of press coverage.

    I am wondering if the norm will become fighting rather than letting things go or working things out quietly behind the scenes precisely because fighting gets a whole lot more coverage. If you feel attention is better than no attention, even if you risk getting negative attention, then maybe you'll go that route.

    For example, in two very recent examples, Banks here and Musk with Tesla, engaged in Twitter trash talk. They either didn't think about any negative consequences or did and felt the exposure was worth it.

    I bring this up because I haven't been confident that we can count on norms of behavior to get everyone to play nice. What if norms of behavior are going the other way and encouraging everyone to trash talk as a way to play the game?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    A Friend, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    [Meta] IP block should produce clear error messages. IP blocked in error.

    Would anyone in charge at Techdirt care to to explain why comment posting from the IP address 76.65.45.156 is blocked? And, furthermore, why the site isn't even honest enough to explicitly state that the comment was rejected by an IP filter? Instead it just spins for a lot longer than normal before saying merely "Error". No statement of what the user's error allegedly was. Just "Error".

    It took a fair amount of trial-and-error to determine that varying name, subject, and content had no effect on the "error" and that the only way to post successfully was to use another IP address. Then, interleaved comment post attempts from 76.65.45.156 and other IPs resulted in all the attempts from 76.65.45.156 failing and all the others succeeding, thereby proving that it's the IP address that makes the difference and not timing (before/after some hypothetical server-side problem/its resolution), content, subject, or author handle.

    There are at least two serious mistakes you've made. One, the error message for posting from an IP that you've elected to disallow posting from should explicitly indicate the reason. And two, the IP at issue in this instance is in a very large (3 million customers) ISP's DHCP pool; it is not dedicated to a single user. It therefore should not be filtered. If there was recently abuse from that IP, you'll need to instead do something less severe with the whole 76.*.*.* range (if not more), such as making all posts from that range go through vetting by a moderator.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Your Friend, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:54am

    Meta: IP block should produce clear error messages. IP blocked in error.

    Would anyone in charge at Techdirt care to to explain why comment posting from the IP address 76.65.45.156 is blocked? And, furthermore, why the site isn't even honest enough to explicitly state that the comment was rejected by an IP filter? Instead it just spins for a lot longer than normal before saying merely "Error". No statement of what the user's error allegedly was. Just "Error".

    It took a fair amount of trial-and-error to determine that varying name, subject, and content had no effect on the "error" and that the only way to post successfully was to use another IP address. Then, interleaved comment post attempts from 76.65.45.156 and other IPs resulted in all the attempts from 76.65.45.156 failing and all the others succeeding, thereby proving that it's the IP address that makes the difference and not timing (before/after some hypothetical server-side problem/its resolution), content, subject, or author handle.

    There are at least two serious mistakes you've made. One, the error message for posting from an IP that you've elected to disallow posting from should explicitly indicate the reason. And two, the IP at issue in this instance is in a very large (3 million customers) ISP's DHCP pool; it is not dedicated to a single user. It therefore should not be filtered. If there was recently abuse from that IP, you'll need to instead do something less severe with the whole 76.*.*.* range (if not a larger range), such as making all posts from that range go through vetting by a moderator.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:57am

    Re: Controversy gets coverage

    I don't think Banks or Musk "engaged in Twitter trash talk". They stated their opinions pretty calmly and didn't go out of their way to demean the other party that I can see.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Re:

    Well. We are probably back to windowing and the cutthroat world of cooperations.

    Baauer wants his song to be the first one to hit the charts in every country since sale of the single is likely to hit better without too many "fake" versions going around. 30 seconds of the song is probably just a promo so he is fine with that, while Rapunzels is a full lenght version.

    When cooperating you would think that they could make gentleman deals. In this case it seems like Banks is the one having trouble keeping her end of the deal up! While I see why she would like it "out there", she should probably have waited.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Shadow Dragon (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    Re:

    And Call ME Maybe

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Controversy gets coverage

    Reading these tweets by Banks, I would say she does a fair amount of trash talking.

    Azealia Banks Starts Twitter Beef with Diplo, Releases 'Harlem Shake' Video | Fashion Magazine | News. Fashion. Beauty. Music. | oystermag.com

    And Musk using the word "fake" about Broder's review is provocative.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Thanks a lot, Mike. I was quite happy under my rock where I was completely oblivious to this stupidity. I fear I may be scarred for life now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 19th, 2013 @ 11:23am

    Re: [Meta] IP block should produce clear error messages. IP blocked in error.

    Would anyone in charge at Techdirt care to to explain why comment posting from the IP address 76.65.45.156 is blocked?

    It's not. There is simply no truth to the claim that it's blocked.

    And, furthermore, why the site isn't even honest enough to explicitly state that the comment was rejected by an IP filter?

    If you get caught in the spam filter, you get a message saying your comment has been held for moderation.

    Instead it just spins for a lot longer than normal before saying merely "Error". No statement of what the user's error allegedly was. Just "Error".

    If you get a message that says "error" that means there was an "error." I don't know what but we're now looking to see if there was a network or database hiccup or something. But if you saw error, there was an error.

    It took a fair amount of trial-and-error to determine that varying name, subject, and content had no effect on the "error" and that the only way to post successfully was to use another IP address. Then, interleaved comment post attempts from 76.65.45.156 and other IPs resulted in all the attempts from 76.65.45.156 failing and all the others succeeding, thereby proving that it's the IP address that makes the difference and not timing (before/after some hypothetical server-side problem/its resolution), content, subject, or author handle.

    This isn't true. I'm sorry, but that IP is simply NOT blocked.

    There are at least two serious mistakes you've made. One, the error message for posting from an IP that you've elected to disallow posting from should explicitly indicate the reason. And two, the IP at issue in this instance is in a very large (3 million customers) ISP's DHCP pool; it is not dedicated to a single user. It therefore should not be filtered. If there was recently abuse from that IP, you'll need to instead do something less severe with the whole 76.*.*.* range (if not more), such as making all posts from that range go through vetting by a moderator.

    If a comment is caught in our filter, it DOES go through a moderator.

    Sorry, but your claims are simply not true. We're sorry that you encountered an error, but your attempt to figure out the cause is simply incorrect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Cordial Twitter exchange?

    Because I'm sexy and I know it!

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    special interesting, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 4:04pm

    Copywrite (and all the ridiculous new laws surrounding it) regulates culture. It removes, prohibits, denies and destroys culture because it stops or slows by many years the sharing of such cultural items such as books, comics, songs, movies, research papers, etc. etc. etc. Keep in mind there is a real cultural need to share these items or data with your children (do it for the children! As if that phrase is not over abused) when they come of age.

    We already live in a media market so starved that downloads only seem to increase the demand for media sales. Starving the market only serves to do what and to who? Since copywrite serves to effectively control the sharing of culture what does that say about our freedom to express ourselves in any such way?

    Example of how copywrite edits history: Martin Luther King's (MLK) I have a Dream public speech which has been claimed by his family which wants to charge everyone to see it. MLK would blow up and yell at his family and spank them for such foolish idiocy. The very people whom this public message he gave to could not afford to purchase it at any price. To hear the speech one must go to the family's museum and pay to get in or license it on an individual basis. His legacy speech is now sequestered in a way that any opposition group could never do. The other side wins. Good culture has been selectively edited from the public commons and flushed down the toilet of selfish interest.

    The concept of public commons is seems to be lost in our current cultural dynamic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 4:44pm

    Re:

    I was just thinking, "So it's this month's Gangnam Style. Yawn".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    A Friend, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:52pm

    Re: Re: [Meta] IP block should produce clear error messages. IP blocked in error.

    Sorry, but the empirical data don't lie. You of all people should know this. And in this instance the empirical data say that, at the time of the incident, the originating IP address predicted 100% of the variance in comment posting success and all other client-side variables, and the time variable, predicted 0% of the variance. You don't ever see data that clean in my usual line of work. :)

    The "error" was provably extremely sensitive to client IP, which a legitimate "error" wouldn't have been, unless the "error" was in an IP filtering module and was triggering false positives there.

    Regardless, the result was that comment posting from a specific IP (maybe range) was disabled (possibly still is), and the continued appearance of comments all day at a normal or near-normal rate indicates that the "error" affects/ed only posters in a small fraction of IP space. If there wasn't a user-discrimination policy being intentionally applied, then it could only have been a bug in a mechanism designed to enable such discrimination, albeit perhaps with a legitimate purpose such as temporarily blocking a range that's causing a spam/DoS headache for Techdirt.

    But the message produced by that mechanism should be upfront with the user and not simply say "Error" without any more information than that. Most users hit with this won't realize they need to use a proxy to post (though, most won't know how anyway); they'll just think the site's broken. Or if they see other people still allowed to comment while theirs consistently get blocked with "Error" without anything to indicate what they should be doing differently, they'll think the site's being an asshole. And they'll go elsewhere.

    False positive or not doesn't make any difference to the point about the error message being ridiculous for its vagueness. I'd also argue that it's somewhat dishonest in that it fails to indicate that it's an IP blocklist (mis)firing rather than rejecting a faulty form submission on the (de)merits of the actual form contents. Users, especially less technical ones, will assume it wants the URL field non-blank, or doesn't like something in the name field, or something like that, and may bang away for several minutes trying all kinds of permutations before giving up and deciding "Techdirt sucks!" Which I figure is not what you want to have happen.

    Please make the error message say why a post is rejected, for each circumstance in which a post may be rejected. Or remove the possibility of flat rejection altogether and send to moderation all posts that aren't just promptly accepted.

    And since something is apparently misfiring and causing false positives, that definitely needs to be checked out. Especially if it could be erroneously blocking a whole range of IPs and, with it, every customer of a quite-large ISP.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    A Friend, Feb 19th, 2013 @ 9:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: [Meta] IP block should produce clear error messages. IP blocked in error.

    P.S. The IP that was affected earlier seems able to post comments now. However the underlying cause of the false positive may remain to be addressed (so, it could happen again at any time, possibly to a different IP/range), depending on what your engineers did. And I'm assuming the vagueness of the error message remains to be addressed as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Clifford Hanga, Feb 20th, 2013 @ 5:52am

    clueless

    article was alright up until the dumb sampling stuff at the end.

    Taking a 2 second vocal sample, pitching it down and slapping it before the drop is not the same as taking a track, putting your own vocals on it and putting it out without permission. Not even the same ballpark.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Angelica, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 5:22am

    Video harlem shake

    Questo e un video fatto con un mio amico, non ce niente di male..
    Voglio pubblicarlo per farci qualche risata su Facebook
    Quindi siete pregati di farmelo inserire
    Ciao

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Robbie, May 20th, 2013 @ 6:33am

    Pricing

    The people whom this public message he gave to could not afford to purchase it at any price.youtube

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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