Baauer’s ‘Harlem Shake’ Is Getting Him Sued
The Internet giveth, and the Internet taketh away: Baauer‘s ‘Harlem Shake,’ the viral sensation that spawned thousands of homemade YouTube clips and earned the Philadelphia-based producer a Number One hit on the Billboard charts, could also end up costing him money.
The New York Times reports that Baauer, a.k.a. Harry Bauer Rodrigues, built key components of ‘Harlem Shake’ on recordings by other artists — and, somewhat surprisingly, failed to obtain clearance for the samples before releasing the song as a single.
There are two bits in contention at the moment: A line featuring the words “Con los terroristas,” lifted from the Hector El Father track ‘Maldades,’ and — ironically — the song’s key moment, the shouted phrase “Do the Harlem Shake!,” which was taken from a song called ‘Miller Time’ by the Philly rap collective known as Plastic Little. Neither act is currently active, but now that they’ve found themselves unexpected parts of a hit, they’re looking for their fair share of the profits.
Hector Delgado, who has retired his Hector El Father persona to lead a ministry in Puerto Rico, expressed his discontentment to the Times, saying, “It’s almost like they came on my land and built a house.” His manager concurred, adding, “Hector will get what he deserves. We can turn around and stop that song. That’s a clear breaking of intellectual property rights.”
Baauer’s label is also dealing with Jayson Musson, the artist whose voice is heard saying “Do the Harlem Shake” in the song. He seems a little more relaxed about it — as he put it, he called Baauer and thanked him for “doing something useful with our annoying music” — but that doesn’t mean he isn’t negotiating for payment, a process in which he says the label “have been more than cooperative.”
Sampling disputes are nothing new; today’s song clearance protocols were put in place following a spate of lawsuits in the late ’80s and early ’90s, most notably the case brought by Gilbert O’Sullivan against Biz Markie after Markie sampled O’Sullivan’s 1972 hit, ‘Alone Again (Naturally),’ for the song ‘Alone Again.’ But as the Web has opened access to an almost limitless source of content for producers, it’s made things more complicated for the legal departments at small companies like Mad Decent, the label that released ‘Harlem Shake’ — and the situation isn’t helped by the laissez-faire approach of artists like Baauer, who summed up his decision to sample the Hector El Father track by saying, “The dude in the beginning I got off the Internet, I don’t even know where.”
Listen to Baauer, ‘Harlem Shake’