Baby Got Back and Glee

January 18th, 2013

This morning, someone pointed me to this:

Admittedly it seems to be an unofficial wiki, and I can’t find any clearly FOX-based source that lists this track as a part of episode 11 of season 4. So I guess the jury’s still out on whether or not this is an official Glee recording.

If it is, I have some questions about how IP works in terms of this song. It’s a cover of a Sir Mix-a-Lot song obviously, but I wrote a new melody for it, which this recording uses. Back when I released it, I bought the statutory license to distribute my version of this song through Harry Fox. Creative Commons doesn’t come into play because it’s a cover song, and anyway my CC license specifies Non-Commercial.

A complicating factor is that, to my ears, it sounds like it actually uses the audio from my recording – not the vocals obviously, but the instruments sound EXTREMELY similar. And I could swear I hear the duck quack somewhere in the background there, though it’s hard to say if that’s just my ears expecting it.

Anyway, yes, weird. Exciting times! I’ll post any updates here.

UPDATE 1/18: No word from Glee or Fox, but I’ve seen screenshots of the song on Swedish iTunes listed with artist = Glee Cast. My lawyers are researching the copyright issues, and I am trying to figure out how to isolate the duck quack, or otherwise test the theory that some of my tracks are in there. This side-by-side comparison is crazy:

MORE UPDATE 1/20: Still no new info. At this point I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on, if this is really Glee, etc. We’ll know more this coming week when the episode it’s supposed to be from actually airs, or if/when FOX actually has a comment about this. Until then, while I am really grateful for everyone’s support, I would suggest that we all chill out until we have the whole story. This is the internet after all – it’s a complicated place and it gets a lot of things wrong. If you want to take some kind of action, donate to the EFF or Creative Commons, which is a good thing to do anytime.

MORE MORE UPDATE 1/25: Well, they aired it, seemingly unchanged. And it’s now for sale in the US iTunes store. They also got in touch with my peeps to basically say that they’re within their legal rights to do this, and that I should be happy for the exposure (even though they do not credit me, and have not even publicly acknowledged that it’s my version – so you know, it’s kind of SECRET exposure). While they appear not to be legally obligated to do any of these things, they did not apologize, offer to credit me, or offer to pay me, and indicated that this was their general policy in regards to covers of covers. It does not appear that I have a copyright claim, but I’m still investigating the possibility (which I consider likely) that they used some or all of my audio. I’ll write something longer and more detailed about this when I can get my head together about it probably in a couple of days. Thanks for your support, but please continue not to burn anything down.

415 responses to “Baby Got Back and Glee”

  1. JustSomeDude says:

    They included your exact lyrics “Jonny C’s in trouble” if that matters, the original song didn’t have those lyrics. Did they even change that on the airing?

  2. Casey says:

    As you know, there are different issues with the composition and the recording. Starting with the composition, the question is whether the material you wrote (the new melody) is a work separate and apart from the original work, and whether you ever really intended it to be.

    The melody is unique and different, and is in no way representative of the original. If you can honestly say you wrote the melody, and then later decided to combine it with the lyrics you might, I repeat, might, have a case. The real question is really whether your recording is an “arrangement” or a derivative work.

    At the same time, the statutory license you obtained from HFA didn’t cover a derivative work. So you may have created a derivative work without the publisher’s permission, which as you likely know is a no-no. Many rap artists are in the position today of trying to negotiate licenses for samples with publishers who want 80% or even 100% of the publishing stream, regardless of the original work created by the rapper.

    The obvious exception to this might be something akin to a “medley.” But again this goes back to your original intent.

    The fact that you obtained a license from HFA, and called the resulting recording “Baby Got Back” all goes against you.

    Now as to the sound recording, as you likely know you own that 100% free and clear. Going by current law (Bridgeport Vs Dimension) if the Glee producers utilized even one note, they have violated your rights.

    But you gotta prove that, and that of course is not always easy.

    Suing big companies like Fox is difficult, time consuming, extremely stressful, and expensive beyond belief. It’s designed to be that way, since it keeps a lot of people out of the courts. At the same time, people like Ryan Murphy (show runner) don’t like bad publicity, and don’t like to be thought of as thieves or a**holes by the general public.

    Since Glee is basically getting your work for nothing, a good lawyer, or even yourself, could potentially negotiate a compromise with things that may or may not include some royalty (remember they have to pay Sir-Mix-a-Lot too), a payment for an arrangement
    which they obviously do as a matter of practice, credit, and/or a written guarantee of future work. Almost everything in life is negotiable, and you have nothing to lose by trying.

    Next time you do something like that, copyright the original melody, and negotiate the license for a derivative work with the original publisher.

  3. Jennifer says:

    They say Johnny C. on the extended version on YouTube. You probably know that, but I haven’t seen that listed as an argument in your favor on most of the places saying they stole your work. I like Glee. I am disappointed and angry they did this and I’m so sorry they aren’t giving credit where credit is due. They owe you an apology at the very least.

  4. Whatever says:

    You should have thought of this before you released the song. It’s phenomenal so eventually someone would want to cover your own version. In the end you wrote the new melody but not the original.

    You made profit off of the success of Sir Mix a Lot’s song by modifying it and now Glee is making profit on a modified version of that. (Yes there are changes. And they never claimed they wrote the new melody).

    It’s an unfair situation. But in the end imitation is the highest form of flattery. People make mistakes and Glee has too. Blame Fox not the producers. Fox is responsible for permissions and catching these errors.

    Props though on re-releasing the song for charity. Take this, take the publicity, make a difference. Put this behind you. Change the world. Work on some new songs. Original songs. If you could make Baby Got Back that good your other original songs and future songs are destined for greatness.

  5. Bethany says:

    Regardless of the legality of the situation there is a huge element of hypocrisy in the practice. They market themselves as innovative and creative in essence. This is no longer true when you’re using the hard worth of others and passing it off as your own. It is a disgusting practice. It wouldn’t be that difficult to link to your work on the official site or something equally courteous.

  6. CALIT says:

    Man, this stuff happens all the time. The big record companies and other corporations go after individual for “copyright infringement” and then go out and steal other artists’ works to make a profit. This stuff makes me sick!

  7. Sineater says:

    Jon, I’m glad you’re suing them. “Glee” has been ripping off peoples’ innovative arrangements of covers for years now without even having the decency to mention where they got the arrangements from– not a credit, not a thanks, and sure as hell not asking or even telling the arrangers about it. The other people they’ve ripped off don’t have the recognition and the pull that you have now.
    I know that your chances of victory are slim (unless you are able to prove to the court’s satisfaction that they ripped off your karaoke track), but the exposure of their fuck-you treatment of artists will hopefully encourage them to improve their manners.

  8. placement says:

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  9. Why not say the truth says:

    The truth is that the rights to the song and to the cover-arrangements are with the original composer and that’s Sir Mix-a-lot.
    So the Glee-people had to pay the licensing fees to him and not to Coulton. They did not steal anything because they had to perform the song in either version by themselves.

    It’s irritating that people like Coulton become greedy and envy the incomings that the composers of the original songs generate because they are not willing to pay higher licensing fees by themselves, but in fact try to bring up people against other performers. Lies spread around the world very fast.

    I hope the Glee people exclude the Coulton version from the DVDs. Not because of monetary reasons – the fee would belong to Mix-a-lot anyway – but because I don’t want to hear a Coulton creation anymore.

  10. Why not say the truth says:

    And if I like a certain cover version sung by whomever (Glee in this case) I as everyone will easily find out the composer of the cover version, and if I like his performance I will also try to buy this version.
    But crying around about the evil world because Glee or FoX TV only mentions the copyright holders (which they obviously do) doesn’t really sound smart.

    You are more catholic than the pope whilst very loudly insisting not to be part of the religion – think about your life.

  11. Another Musician says:

    You absolutely have a right to sue for this. I heard this on Glee and loved it. When I went looking for it, I found they had ripped it off from you. The fact that you added new lyrics, even if they are minimal makes it a new creation, plus the new melody makes it a completely new work. As you know from purchasing rights on Harry Fox, you must not only choose which work to get permission but also which version of that work to get permission to record. Fox needed a license for both the original for the words and your work for the melody and lyrics changes. The problem here is that you are not represented by someone who can license your music for others to use. However, that does not absolve them from stealing your version of this song. You should definitely sue. Let me know where to send my donation and I’ll send the info to all my musician friends.
    As for the above comment that you did not get a license to create a derivative work. That may be true, but the fact that you bothered to buy a license at all shows that you made a good faith effort to compensate and credit the original composer, something Fox has not done for you. Good luck!

  12. abokeBeaumma says:

    Best of the Best!


  13. johnchow says:

    composition and the recording are different i think.

  14. Fred :-{= says:

    I gave the ‘Glee” FB page a swift and savage tongue lashing. I hope that scared them. I love your attitude toward music and keep it going. Your Karmic reward will be great.

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