Meme Traveling and Ownership

The Harlem Shake became a serious dance craze duirng my freshman year of college. Everyone was doing it and everyone was trying to find new ways to make the dance an original. The funny part was though, was that no one really knew where the song came from. All of a sudden there was a dance to this funny EDM song. I do not remember exactly who created the first dance video or which one i saw first, but I remember thinking, ‘that’s funny, I want to make a video like this.’ People were doing the dance everywhere. I especially liked the one of the water polo team doing it in the pool. I found that pretty creative.

I later learned, after reading this article that Baauer (creator of the song) had made this song from samples of other songs but he had not gotten licensed permission to use the samplings so the authors of the other songs wanted to sue Baauer and Mad Decent, his label. In order to keep the song out there though for the public to use, Baauer and Mad Decent had to give credit to the two authors that created the samplings that Baauer used to make the very popular EDM song. This brings up the notion of authorship.

Authorship is “an individual or group of individuals laying claim to a work, already on a shaky grounds with EDM music, seems to fall short when attempting to encapsulate the large collections of digital labor that go into Internet memes.” Memes spread very quickly and they are usually produced anonoymously through networked practices such as social media. This Harlem Dance meme was so hard to keep up with, there was not really a way to claim authorship on the dance. Their power [memes] comes from the popularity and how often it is shared on social media and the replication of the meme, to make it even better. For example, the recent meme “what are those” came out at the beginning of summer of 2016, or maybe even before then. It was very popular and was shared multiple times and people were starting to make their own original take on it. No one could claim ownership though because people were unsure about who said it first.

The culture of shared memes is very interesting and we do not realize that memes that are usually created are no always expected to be popular. The fast traveling of memes across the media makes it so easy for things to become popular overnight. It is almost a warning to some to claim things as their own, just in case. One will never know if there original idea will become worldly known.

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