The Harlem Shake, now two weeks into its life as America’s favorite (or most annoying) meme, has shown a surprising resilience in an age when most Internet jokes have a 24-hour shelf life. More than 4,000 videos featuring the words “Harlem Shake” were being posted per day to YouTube during the peak of the mania last week, and new versions continue to crop up. The primary element holding the videos together, which feature everything from dancing walruses to Power Rangers, is the song “Harlem Shake,” a hip-hop instrumental that sports a now-infamous beat drop about 15 seconds in. While the videos are simple fun for the thousands of people that have participated in Harlem Shakes, they’ve become an easy moneymaker for the song’s creator, Baauer, and YouTube itself.
Just a few years ago, copyright lawyers likely would have shut down the Harlem Shake craze before it could really get going—you might remember Viacom’s 2007 lawsuit against Google for allowing copyright-violating videos to spread across YouTube. Now, though, most content creators are working with YouTube to identify copyright-violating material and monetize it instead of delete it.
Through a service called Content ID, YouTube automatically trawls its servers looking for copies of copyrighted materials that owners have asked to be protected. Users of the service can then have these copies removed from YouTube, do nothing, or have ads sold against the videos if they qualify for monetization. When Baauer’s label, Mad Decent, originally uploaded the full “Harlem Shake” song to YouTube in the summer of 2012, they were hoping it would proliferate. “We’ve, from the beginning, been very much a proponent of allowing everybody to do whatever they want with our stuff, as long we’re able to monetize it,” says Jasper Goggins, the manager of the label. “It’s a great way to help spread the music.”
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc