Harlem Shake’s unexpected success has forced it to revisit permissions

A synthesizer-driven dance track, called "Harlem Shake," has become viral hit on YouTube, now reportedly with 50,000 copycat videos. When a work of art hits unexpected success, expect some IP problems.

According to the New York Times and as reported in The DROP.fm, reggae artist Hector Delgado and rapper Jayson Musson had their voices sampled on Harlem Shake, and neither knew about it.

Delgado’s voice is heard at the beginning of the track, stating the line “Con los terroristas.” Musson’s voice is heard saying, “Do the Harlem shake,” about 15 seconds into the tune

Both artists are currently in negotiations over royalty fees. For well-heeled studios and successful artists, permissions are handled before release of a work. It can be time-consuming and expensive, and so small labels with tight budgets and literally no expectation of success might skip this part. In the age of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, you never know.