Meme Studies

Meet Shawn Cotter, the Man Behind the Rickroll

(Photo: YouTube)

On May 15, 2007, a then-19-year-old YouTube user named Shawn Cotter–employing the handle “cotter548”–uploaded the music video for Rick Astley’s 1987 hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up,” intending to troll some of his fellow gaming cohorts on 4chan. Mr. Cotter, who was serving in the Air Force in South Korea at the time, linked to the video under the pretense that it was a new trailer for Grand Theft Auto: IV. But as that now-familiar drum cadence faded in and the caption “You just got Rickroll’d” floated across the screen, users discovered they weren’t watching a video game trailer at all.

The digital bait-and-switch of Rickrolling was born, and 4chan was not amused.

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Don’t Worry, Internet: That Rickrolling Video is Back Up


Did you think a little trademark infringement could obliterate one of the Internet’s longest standing memes? Think again, AVG Technologies.

TorrentFreak reported earlier that a copyright claim filed by AVG has led YouTube to pull one of the most popular uploads of Rick Astley’s famous “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video, which has been viewed over six million times. Ars Technica reported it, too. But when we clicked on the video, it didn’t appear to have been taken down at all: in fact, it worked perfectly fine. An editor from Ars Technica confirmed to us via email that the video appeared to be back up for him as well.

It’s unclear what exactly happened: perhaps YouTube pulls videos automatically when they’re reported for copyright violation. But what a terrible 24 hours (at least according to TorrentFreak) that must have been for all of you out there in Internetland!

We’ve reached out to YouTube for comment and will let you know if we hear back.