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The rambunctious boys spinning wildly on the chair in the family living room look like any over-energized kids, until the one doing the spinning opens his month. But "Charlie" comes out as "Chaw-leeee" and suddenly there's a ring of familiarity.
The oh-so-cute video posted in runs just 56 seconds and shows the two boys -- then ages one and three -- playing in a chair. Harry tempts his little brother with a finger. Charlie promptly bites it and laughs mischievously.
A sweet little moment of innocence from Thames Valley, England, that has been viewed more than million times on YouTube.
Their dad, Howard Davies-Carr posted the video five years ago to share with boys' godfather, who lives in Colorado. Howard shared the link with family and friends. After a few weeks it had about views. He let it languish for a few months. At that point, I realized that it had a few thousand views and then pretty much every day it was almost doubling in the number of views it was having, which I thought was rather strange. You know, why are all these people watching our video?
What Howard Davies-Carr was witnessing was -- at the time -- a new Internet phenomenon: With thousands of copies of the clip rocketing through cyberspace, he realized he had lost control of a private family moment. The genie was out of the bottle. Is this something that we accept is us and do something more with or is it something we just park and say, 'That's really nothing to do with us,' and then everybody else will be exploiting it and making money from it?
It wasn't until viewership hit 50 million that Howard discovered he could partner with YouTube to share ad revenue. It's like they won the lottery. Their parents have resisted offers of American talk shows and public appearances and the boys remain oblivious to their inadvertent-but-enduring fame. Five years later, they are sitting in that same chair, squirming and easily distracted. I ask if they know how many people have seen their little video. It was the viral success of 'Charlie Bit Me' that inspired London lawyer and music producer Damian Collier to start what he says is the world's first viral video management company.
He calls it Viral Spiral. They've uploaded a video to YouTube and there they are all of a sudden owning a valuable piece of copyright. A Charlie iPhone App is in the works and so are Charlie children's books. Howard Davies-Carr says people who own videos that unexpectedly go viral need to be careful.
Other owners of viral videos are catching on and cashing in, too. A Brazilian bank used a video of baby ripping up paper to promote paperless banking. An Internet security company uses laughing babies to promote protection.
A contact lens company uses a cute wide-eyed baby to promote its lenses. And then there's Fenton the deer-chasing dog in London -- soon to be the subject of a children's book.
Maybe it's Charlie's devilish laugh at the end that has won the world over. He says he and his wife, Shelley, struggle with balancing their children's accidental good-fortune with the pitfalls of fame. It's something I probably worry about every day," he says. They should be in films or they should be models or this kind of stuff.
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