Baauer is ‘taking action’ against FCC chairman for using Harlem Shake in net neutrality repeal video

Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images for Coachella

Musician Harry Rodrigues, who produces and DJs under the name Baauer, is not okay with Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai using his song, “Harlem Shake,” in an anti-net neutrality video produced by The Daily Caller.

The corny video features Pai describing all of the benign activities you can still partake in after the repeal of open internet protection. The final skit features the chairman and others, including a prominent “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist, dancing to “Harlem Shake” in an apparent attempt at earning internet cred by referencing an old meme from 2013. The FCC voted 3-2 today to repeal landmark net neutrality rules that two years ago reclassified telecom companies as common carriers under Title II designation.

In a statement from Baauer obtained by The Verge, the DJ says, “The use of my song in this video obviously comes as a surprise to me as it was just brought to my attention. I want to be clear that it was used completely without my consent or council. My team and I are currently exploring every single avenue available to get it taken down. I support net neutrality like the vast majority of this country and am appalled to be associated with its repeal in anyway.”

Baauer initially announced his intent to pursue possible legal action for the unauthorized use of his music on Twitter this morning, in which he wrote, “I'm taking action. Whatever I can do to stop this loser.” At the very least, Baauer could exercise any legal means necessary to penalize Pai for his use of a tired meme, or perhaps for dancing like this:


a) Would this not be covered fair use as a non-profit education piece? (I’m not saying I agree with Pai, but that would be what they would argue that this video is)

b) Would Baauer allowing billions of YouTube views of people doing the same thing without expressed permission lose him the ability to sue at this late juncture.

It’s a hard sell, but trying to do something is better than not doing anything.

a – Possible, particularly given Pai is part of the FCC and that the element used was in context with the rest of the video
b – Trademarks != Copyrights. See Firewatch and Campos Santos / PewDiePie for the situation around copyright enforceability. Unless Baauer has given an explicit written license (as Campos Santos did on their site) the odds of them being able to argue that they had permission from Baauer is minimal.

a ) Given that the video was produced by The Daily Caller, I think that defense might be more difficult.

b) what is he going to do? sue and imprison billions of people? that makes that scene in the dark knight where Harvey Dent gets half of Gothem’s criminals behind bar look like child’s play. you will be one hell of a fucking force to be reckoned with if he can do that, but he can’t…

I am going to take the heat here and say it.

Given the drivel that is the majority of YouTube videos, this ranks quite fairly.

As for copyright, are we really going to take down every video of some child, puppet dancing to a popular song?

As for copyright, are we really going to take down every video of some child, puppet dancing to a popular song?

No, just this one.

As for copyright, are we really going to take down every video of some child, puppet dancing to a popular song?

You joke, but this happens way too frequently already.

How ironic that someone who stole a piece of black culture to profit more from it is going after a man who’s upending a piece of culture to help companies profit more from it.

Oh stop it with the "culture vulture" BS. The song wasn’t even popularized until Filthy Frank made it a meme.

You’re out of your pigeon-holed mind. The Harlem Shake originated from the Eskista dance in Ethiopa and became a very popular dance in black culture as the Al B in the 80’s. It originally went mainstream in 2001 as the Harlem Shake with the song "Let’s Get It." Was referenced in Missy Elliot’s song "Work It" & in numerous other Hip-Hop songs like Nelly’s "Dilemma." It was undoubtedly a mainstream dance. It was then appropriated by some non-black folk, the dance was bastardized and the "Harlem Shake" song became a meme. A meme is no different from the one-hit wonder of a decade ago. You and the person who recommended you should take some time and do a little Google search every once and a blue instead of talking out of your rear.

The history of the dance is irrelevant (though I agree worth checking out). If there was a copyright claim to be made against Baauer, then it would and should have. To be fair, he did have unlicensed samples on the track, but it doesn’t change the fact that he made it his own and it was popular nevertheless. Dances, for what it’s worth, are difficult to copyright. Stop making this about race. He never actually made any money off the song even though it of course popularized him.

Please do your research.

In terms of making it about "race," it’s blatent cultural appropriation. Which is a staple within white culture. It becomes about "race" because a specific "race" of people appropriate disproportionately to others and profit the most from their appropriation (White people.) It’s a nuecense at best, racist at worst. This falls more in line with nuecense.

Many people who appropriate agree with your sentiment that the history of something doesn’t matter. It bodes well to them having no shame & taking no onus in the misuse of others creations for their own personal gain.

He may not have made money off the song directly but it directly led to him having a better career so it’s fair to say that song paid him in exposure.

I pointed out truthful irony and you rebut with ignorance.

Oh, right…I’m the one speaking out of ignorance…because keeping "black culture" separate from "white culture" does wonders to reduce racial tension, huh?

Per your original comment, we’re talking about Baauer here, not the thousands of middle aged white teachers in suburbia who butchered the "coveted" Harlem shake. He made a song existing in complete isolation from the dance itself other than it stating "do the Harlem shake" and being titled that. He didn’t impose a specific dance himself upon what black people interpreted it as or create a video that depicted a butchered version. His popularity is due to the catchiness of the song. It didn’t really matter whether the song said "do the Harlem shake", or "do the hanky pank"…it was a catchy song regardless.

So, again, if you want to blame anyone, you need to first start with Filthy Frank and then harp on the thousands of people who knew nothing about the "original" Harlem shake. Though, again, I feel that whether they knew what the "actual" Harlem shake was or not is irrelevant, because if they cared to know then it would have brought much more attention to the "original" than had the meme not existed at all.

Black culture is different from white culture. As Japanese culture is different from Amish culture & so on. Our diversity & what makes us unique is what makes us all beautiful. Trying to pretend our cultures are one in the same & in any way interwoven does nothing but disservice to our individuality. Racial tension subsides by understanding, accepting & embracing what makes us all unique. Not by appropriating and bastardizing aspects of others culture to profit from.

I put little onus on the people who made the song a meme. My initial statement targeted the creator, that’s it. There was TONS of conversation about how it was disrespectful to the original Harlem Shake. Dance crews were even on local news shows showing off the real Harlem Shake as a response. There are hundreds of response videos to the meme. Just because you were out of the loop and in your bubble doesn’t mean vocal protest was non existent.

People know what the original Harlem Shake is, you may not have. The other who agrees with you may not have. But the Harlem Shake was indeed a mainstream dance move. You’re either young or don’t know much about hip-hop culture. Just like the meme, it was unavoidable in its time.

You Americans and your obsession with skin color. No one else in the world cares if the DJ is black or white. Judging from his name he isn’t even "white" but a minority himself. Get over it already.

It’s not an American thing, it is in fact a global thing. America is one of the few nations to acknowledge, even if it struggles to accept, its racist/prejudice past & present. I have gone many places in this world & have been discriminated against or stereotyped based on how our media chooses to portray us as a whole. I personally don’t care if in your eyes the rest of the world doesn’t care about skin color. History/facts have proven otherwise.

It is truly something America has going for it, an acknowledgment of its own racism.

In Australia it is normalised to the point highly educated "liberal minded" people have no idea how racist they are. It is part of the culture itself and it is insidious.

Sometime in the future it will look like this….

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