It was July in the year 2000. On an overcast day in Berlin, the techno festival known as Fuckparade wound its way down Rosenthaler Straße, a busy hub for commuters and tourists. It was here that Matthias Fritsch, a no-name artist in Germany, unwittingly produced the Techno Viking.
Fritsch secretly filmed this man with whom we are now all too familiar, and then waited a year to upload the film. For several years after that, it sat around in Web obscurity. It wasn't until 2007 that the video went viral, and by 2010, over 20 million people had seen it. That's more than the population of the entire Netherlands. Fritsch went on to make money from Youtube and become a celebrated lecturer on Web 2.0 around the world.
But someone wasn't happy. And that someone, Mr. Techno Viking himself, has now sued Fritsch for illegally capturing and profiting from his identity. The Viking's real identity still remains unknown. What is known is that he contacted Fritsch and asked him to remove the video (which he did). But by this time it was already viral. In fact, some sources report that the Techno Viking moniker (or Technoviking, whichever you prefer), was coined by a Central American porn site which randomly reposted Fritsch's video.
The implications of the trial for Web 2.0 and social media are important. If Fritsch is found guilty of illegally profiting from Viking's personality, he may be asked to scrub the internet of all Techno Viking related material (an impossible feat), or asked to pay a fine of over $300,000. Such actions would send a confusing message to Youtube uploaders everywhere, so it will be interesting to see how the German courts approach this matter.
We'll keep you updated. In the meantime, if you see someone strange dancing to techno in the streets, we highly encourage you to film them. Send them over here when you do.