‘Baby Shark’ has become a global hit – but no one appears to own the rights to it.
The children’s song popularised by Pinkfong, which is currently in the UK top 10 and the Billboard Hot 100, is now the centre of a copyright dispute involving several parties who claim to have written the original composition.
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South Korean educational band Pinkfong shared the song in 2015 and posted a remixed version on its YouTube channel in 2016 (which has since racked up a staggering 2,242,758,092+ views to date). The song has also been used for an American social media craze that has seen pop stars including Cardi B attempt the dance challenge.
Rolling Stone reports that according to SmartStudy, the company behind Pinkfong, the core melody in both Pinkfong versions has now been adapted into more than 100 versions in 11 different languages. The tune itself, SmartStudy claims, originates from an old singalong chant that appears to date back dozens of years to multiple sources.
Now, with Pinkfong’s remix sitting in the charts, several parties are embroiled in copyright disputes in court or otherwise. A kids’ musician who uploaded the song to his YouTube channel in 2011, Johnny Only, filed a copyright complaint to a Seoul court over Pinkfong’s 2016 version of the song, believing it to possess too many similarities to his version.
But Pinkfong allege that the song originates from an old nursery rhyme. They say that they didn’t take inspiration from any other artist.
Additionally, a German dance version of ‘Baby Shark’ (‘Kleiner Hai’) became popular in 2007. Composer Alexandra Müller told Vulture that she had been singing the song for nearly 20 years. “It’s a popular children’s song in Germany. We never found out where it came from. We checked the rights and it was public law, like a Christmas song, so there were no royalties,” she said.
Rolling Stone likens the mystery of the song’s origins to the equally familiar tune ‘Happy Birthday’, which no one owns copyright claim to.