Baby Shark is one of the most popular children’s songs in recent history. The infectious tune about a family of sharks has been viewed over 10 billion times on YouTube and covered by major artists like James Corden and Sophia Grace. But where did this viral sensation come from and who owns the rights to it?
The Origins of Baby Shark
Baby Shark began as a campfire song in the mid-1900s. The exact origins are unclear, but it emerged as a singalong game in American summer camps. The song was passed down through oral tradition with different variations over the decades. By the 1980s, the modern version known today, with the “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo” lyrics, had solidified.
The campfire song was adapted and recorded as a children’s song for the first time in 1992, when American singer and producer Johnny Only turned it into an early dance/pop version titled “Baby Shark Dance.” Only’s version kickstarted Baby Shark’s spread into mainstream children’s entertainment.
The Pinkfong Version Goes Viral
In 2015, South Korean education brand Pinkfong released a music video of their take on “Baby Shark.” The video instantly went viral on YouTube, raking in millions of views. By 2019, it became the most-viewed video in YouTube history.
Pinkfong’s version introduced the repetitive shark family lineup—”Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo…Mommy shark, doo doo doo doo doo…Daddy shark, doo doo doo doo doo…” etc.—that made the song so catchy. The video’s colorful animation also made it highly engaging for kids.
Who Owns the Pinkfong Baby Shark?
Pinkfong is owned by the South Korean company SmartStudy. SmartStudy is the legal copyright holder of the iconic Pinkfong Baby Shark version of the song released in 2015.
While Baby Shark originated as a traditional campfire song in the 1900s, SmartStudy owns the trademark rights to “Baby Shark” in the context of children’s songs and videos. They have actively protected their trademark by filing legal disputes against other uses of “Baby Shark.”
Baby Shark Goes Mainstream
Thanks to Pinkfong’s viral video, Baby Shark exploded in popularity globally. It spawned cover versions, dance videos, merchandise and even a live concert tour.
In January 2019, children’s entertainer Pinkfong and Round Room Live announced a massive 100-show tour across North America called “Baby Shark Live!” The tour kicked off in October 2019 and continued into 2020 before ending prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baby Shark also entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 2019, debuting at number 32 before climbing to number 7. The Pinkfong version was in the top 40 for 20 weeks.
Licensing the Baby Shark IP
As Baby Shark’s owner, SmartStudy has actively licensed the intellectual property to expand into books, games, apps, toys and more. The WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Official Song Puppet launched in 2018 and became a hot holiday toy. Hasbro launched a Baby Shark card and board game in 2019.
Baby Shark has also been licensed for TV shows. Nickelodeon aired a 26-episode 2D animated series “Baby Shark’s Big Show!” beginning in 2021, co-produced by SmartStudy and ViacomCBS.
Baby Shark by the Numbers
Here are some key metrics that demonstrate Baby Shark’s massive popularity:
|YouTube views of Pinkfong Baby Shark video
|Peak position on Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2019
|Weeks Pinkfong Baby Shark was in Billboard Hot 100 top 40
|Shows on Baby Shark Live! 2019 tour across North America
|Total sales of Baby Shark-licensed products in first 15 months
The Global Appeal of Baby Shark
While created in South Korea, Baby Shark has demonstrated massive crossover appeal internationally. Part of this is due to the simple, repetitive lyrics that make it easy for non-English speakers to sing. The catchy dance moves also contribute to its accessibility. Preschools and parents worldwide have embraced Baby Shark as an easy way to captivate young kids.
The song has been translated into multiple languages, from Spanish to Mandarin. In 2019, SmartStudy signed deals to develop Baby Shark content tailored to Chinese culture and aimed at the Chinese market.
Baby Shark’s meteoric rise to fame has not been without some controversies. In 2017, writer and producer Johnny Only sued SmartStudy for copyright infringement, alleging they had illegally adapted his 1992 song “Baby Shark Dance” without permission. SmartStudy argued their song was based on the traditional campfire song and the suit was later dismissed.
Environmental activists have also criticized Pinkfong’s owner SmartStudy for licensing Baby Shark toys made of environmentally harmful plastics. However, SmartStudy has announced plans to use eco-friendly bioplastics in future merchandise.
The Future of Baby Shark
While Baby Shark mania may have peaked in 2019, the song and character still remain popular with toddlers today. SmartStudy continues to produce new content like singalong videos. The TV show “Baby Shark’s Big Show!” premiered its second season in 2022.
Live shows and licensing deals also continue, with products spanning bedding, costumes, toothbrushes and more. SmartStudy likely aims to extend Baby Shark’s relevance for as long as possible, while introducing the next generation of young kids to the catchy tune.
For the foreseeable future, Baby Shark seems here to stay as one of the most iconic and widely loved children’s brands worldwide. Parents everywhere will be hearing “doo doo doo doo doo” for years to come!
Baby Shark originated as a 1900s campfire song before exploding globally thanks to SmartStudy’s 2015 Pinkfong video. While SmartStudy legally owns the trademarks and copyright to today’s version of Baby Shark, the song’s origins are murky, leading to some disputes. Regardless, it has become a beloved children’s anthem, with Baby Shark merchandise, shows and licensing generating over $125 million quickly. The simple tune continues capturing young hearts worldwide and will likely stick around as a childhood staple for modern generations.