Net Neutrality

Lack of Net Neutrality Can't Stop the FCC's 'Harlem Shake' Video, But Copyright Law Might!

Onerous IP laws threaten a free and open internet in a way deregulation never can.


Daily Caller/FCC

As part of his campaign to roll back the net neutrality rules imposed in 2015, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai released a short parody video listing some things you'll still be able to do online after the vote. (The quick version: pretty much everything.) Toward the end of the video, Pai does the Harlem Shake, a dance that became a meme back in 2013.

Pai has attracted the ire of many an ill-informed opponent of the rollback. One of them, apparently, is Baauer, the producer behind the Harlem Shake. Baauer has announced he's taking legal action against the video.

Opponents of the rollback claim it threatens a "free and open" internet, but onerous intellectual property laws pose a far greater threat to a free and open internet than Pai's mild deregulation. It is copyright, after all, that Baauer is using to suppress a video whose message he doesn't like.

The Federal Communications Commission appears to have pulled the video off its YouTube channel (although it still appears on the Daily Caller website). That's unfortunate but not unsurprising. Baauer doesn't have a case: The use of the song pretty clearly falls under fair use as a parody (it appears in a portion of the video about driving memes to the ground). But copyright laws make bullying like this easy, and they've had an undeniable chilling effect on free expression online. Most content creators don't have the resources to fight even a specious takedown order, and so they often back down when facing a legal threat instead of trying to fight for their rights.

If you supporting Baauer's tactic, you don't actually support a free and open internet. Or at the very least, you don't have a good grasp of what a free and open internet entails.