gerald-schombs-BqySllTmBhk-unsplashIn this space I cover a lot of stories pulled straight from the day's news, often involving multinational corporations and the equivalent level of stars from the entertainment business. All big deals, to be sure, but none could hope to approach the level of status on offer to artists geared to kids. While we as adults have tempered our ideas about the artists themselves, and moderate our consumption of their work, kids have no such notions, and love with a fervor and constancy that many artists could only dream of with their own fans.

The latest kids' craze, big enough to have drawn notice among adults as well, is the song "Baby Shark" popularized by the Korean company Pinkfong. If you've young children in your life, you've undoubtedly been exposed to the song more times than you'd care to consider; in my case, it's a toddler nephew who greets every recitation of the song with a joy reserved for the best things in life, like snacks. It's "Old Town Road" for the daycare set, if it happened to be one of the half-dozen or so songs that terrestrial radio played or Spotify offered. (Kids like what they like, and only what they like, I've learned.)

With that level of notoriety, it seemed inevitable that there would come a challenge over authorship or ownership, and indeed that day has arrived, as a children's entertainer has pressed a case claiming copyright infringement. A man known professionally as Johnny Only, a New York-area children's performer and DJ, filed the suit in Seoul against Pinkfong and its parent company SmartStudy, claiming that the company infringed upon his own version of the song, published in 2011. Neither side claims that the song itself is a wholecloth creation on their part, both acknowledging that it originated from a chant going back years. Only's claim is that his own version originated the idea of setting the chant to music as a song, and removed some of the more gory details originally included in the chant in favor of more family-friendly lyrics.

At first blush, the two versions share commonalities, although to what extent that is coincidence is left to be determined in the courts. (Almost as an aside, the notion that a local children's singer in New York state might influence a Korean entertainment company speaks to the wondrous permeability of our culture in this day and age, but that is a consideration likely to be unappreciated in this matter.) Given the extent to which "Baby Shark' has become a phenomenon, it's unsurprising that Only would feel deeply aggrieved if he believed himself to be the originator of this iteration. For its part, SmartStudy of course denies the claim that it copied Only's work, stating that the chant upon which the song is based has passed into public domain. However the case is ultimately decided, I don't think that we're soon to be spared of the song anytime soon.

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