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“Baby Shark” song in copyright battle


March 27, 2019

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According to WBNG, the popular (and incredibly catchy) children’s song, “Baby Shark”, is at the centre of a copyright dispute between a New York children’s entertainer and artist, Jonathan Wright (“Johnny Only”), and a Korean children’s entertainment brand, Pinkfong.


In 2011, Johnny Only recorded a video rendition of the song “Baby Shark”. Prior to Johnny Only’s recording, the song had only ever been passed down orally, commonly featured at various children’s camp and school activities. Five years later, in 2016, Pinkfong recorded its own rendition of the song with an accompanying music video.


Johnny Only told CBC Radio that, technically, nobody owns the Baby Shark song, which dates back to the 1900s, because it is classified as ‘traditional’. Johnny Only claims he was responsible for making the song more toddler-friendly by removing the gory details pertaining to an actual shark attack.


Both the Pinkfong version and the Johnny Only version are extremely similar. However, the Pinkfong video has received worldwide attention, with more than 172 million views on YouTube while the Johnny Only video, on the other hand, sits just shy of 100 thousand views.


According to CBC Radio, Johnny Only is waiting for the Korean courts to decide who, if anyone, owns the rights to the current version of the song. He has stated that he hopes to receive some recognition for the part he played in making the song the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

Authors: Amanda Bertucci and Anna Condon


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