SmartStudy, the Korean based educational company that owns PinkFong, the creative geniuses behind the Baby Shark phenomenon, is being sued by a New York-based children's entertainer who states that he was the person who actually came up with Baby Shark.
Johnny Only is a children's entertainer and DJ who claims he's been performing his own version of the Baby Shark song for audiences for over 20 years now and is now suing SmartStudy in South Korea for copyright infringement.
While no one knows the true origin of the song, it has long been maintained that the tune was a traditional campfire song, therefore public domain. A communications representative from SmartStudy responded to the Only's lawsuit, stating "Pinkfong’s 'Baby Shark' is based on a traditional singalong chant which has passed to public domain. Produced by SmartStudy, we are the producer and publisher, we own and control 100% of Pinkfong Baby Shark," USA Today reports.
Only says that it was odd to hear the song become so popular. "On a personal level, it has been a bit weird," Only said in an email to USA Today. "Especially because I feel like I am the one who started it."
He says it was decades ago when he was entertaining at a tween and teen camp when he heard the campers singing the popular song, and said that traditionally the song is less child-friendly and more about the horrors of an actual shark attack! "The whole point of the song is the scary shark attack. The narrator typically loses limbs and dies from it," Only said. "There would be a verse and motions for every part of the attack," he added. "The object of the chant was to improvise details and motions," Only said. "For example, the counselors might break the campers up into groups and ask them to come up with their own version and then perform for each other."
Only said it was then that he realized that the song could be fun for toddlers, so he created his own version that was much more child-friendly. "I realized that the baby shark chant could be made into a toddler-aged children's song if I changed the words and added music," he said. "So I did." He even released a YouTube video in 2011 showing him performing his own version of the song that PinkFong has made into the biggest earworm of the last few years.
It was after PinkFong's version of the song became popular in North America that Only noticed the similarities. "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," Only states. "Even some of the harmony styles and things like adding a lower voice when they introduce daddy shark."
Only says that he should receive credit for creating his version of Baby Shark and that PinkFong never asked him for permission to use it. SmartStudy maintains that their version of the song was based on the public domain version and therefore Only has no case.
The case is still being heard in court. Check out Johnny Only's version below and let us know what you think.