The Truth Behind TikTok
Updated: Jun 9, 2021
The rise of TikTok is directly related to meme culture which promotes imitation over individuality--specifically the uncredited imitation of dances and trends created by black people.
The new video-based social media app was initially launched under the name Musical.ly in 2014. It has since been rebranded to what we now know as TikTok in 2017.
The platform is particularly large amongst Generation Z-ers, and is often compared to the fallen 6-second video-based app known as Vine.
The two apps are similar in the sense that they profit off of Black humor and talent. Vine content, however, focused much more on individuality; whereas the TikTok "Use Sound" feature encourages users to do their best to imitate trends.
It's all fun and games until this imitation leads directly to the stealing of content from Black creators...again.
Take 14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon for example. The renegade dance she choreographed to K Camp's "Lottery" went viral across platforms. Several big-name TikTok influencers made the dance popular, and even changed a couple of dance moves at the end, but failed to give her credit.
Going viral can result in much more than just likes, comments, and shares. It also comes with the opportunity to become an influencer, which leads to income. So when content is imitated without credit, the creator is literally being robbed of money. The issue continues to adversely affect Black creators.
It's important to note that it is extremely common for Black dances to be copied and monetized (i.e. Fortnite stealing dances by Black creators).
It might be time to educate Black creators on how to copyright a dance; but truly, the solution is beyond copyright. Users on the app should be able to enjoy it without having to worry about legalities.
It comes down to morals. Given the context that popular culture nowadays is plagiarized Black culture, it should be stressed that Black people get credit in everything they create or that users create original content.
Hughes, Jazmine. “Vine Dries Up. Black Humor Loses a Home - The New York Times.” The New York Times - Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos, 31 Oct. 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/arts/vine-jay-versace-black-culture.html.
Lorenz, Taylor. “Meet the Original Renegade Dance Creator: Jalaiah Harmon - The New York Times.” The New York Times - Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos, 13 Feb. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/13/style/the-original-renegade.html.
Peterson, Latoya. “How Vine Overlooked the People of Color Who Made It Amazing | WIRED.” Wired, WIRED, 31 Oct. 2016, https://www.wired.com/2016/10/how-vine-overlooked-the-people-of-color-who-made-it-amazing/.
Robertson, Adi. “Fortnite Dance Lawsuits Are Bad for Copyright and Bad for Culture - The Verge.” The Verge, The Verge, 27 Feb. 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/27/18242899/fortnite-dance-move-copyright-lawsuit-carlton-milly-rock-epic-games.