Next up in the musical plagiarism wars: An infringement charge against “Baby Shark”

Who wrote the melody to “Baby Shark?” No one knows–although it’s thought to have originated as a campfire song for kids sometime in the 20th century. As such, the melody is considered to be in the public domain.

This doesn’t fly with a children’s entertainment named Johnny Only. He once took the melody and created a song that told the story of a shark attack.

Only says he’s been performing his version of the song for decades. There is something on YouTube, but it’s entitled “Non-dismemberment version.”

I apologize for this, but if we’re going to examine this situation properly, I have to post “Baby Shark” so you may compare the two recordings.

Proving infringement is going to be hard. First, we have a melody in the public domain. Second, there other kids’ songs based on the same melody, all of which predate that Johnny Only version.

But Only is adamant. “The shortened length, the key, the addition of instrumentation, the type of instrumentation, the rhythm, the tempo, the sanitation of the lyrics for toddler age audiences, the tempo change mid song, the splash at the beginning … even some of the harmony styles and things like adding a lower voice when they introduce daddy shark [are all the same].”

Pinkfong, the South Korean company behind the current “Baby Shark” phenomenon and targets of the suit say “Getouttahere.”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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