Baby Got Back and Glee

By JoCo January 18, 2013

This morning, someone pointed me to this:

http://glee.wikia.com/wiki/Baby_Got_Back

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: https://soundcloud.com/alacrion/joco-v-glee

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.

Comments

Kanga LaRue says

Interesting! Ugh copyrights and licensing are such a pain!

But at least it's kind of cool that they went with your version. :P

OH!! And speaking of covers, I've got one of Code Monkey for you if you'd like to take a listen. :) Hope you like chiptunes!

worlebird says

If you think @GLEEonFOX should acknowledge the contribution of @jonathancoulton, tweet them with the hashtag #whoisjohnnyc

Jonas Stendal says

It's available on iTunes under Glee Cast as any other Glee song is. They always (usually) release all songs from the upcoming episode on iTunes the friday before, so it'll most likely be in the 11th episode.

jefftheworld says

It's always shitty when people steal music, but hopefully this ends up being a golden ticket for Mr. Co ... erm, Mr. Coulton.

Disney recently stole an Anamanaguchi song and I'm hoping they're able to parlay that into some much deserved publicity, money and whatnot. Hopefully the same can be true in this case.

Paul R. Potts says

Interesting (and not in a good way). It _really_ does sound to me like they used your Baby Got Back backing tracks. I bet I can prove it (or disprove it) with a little technical wizardry involving overlaying some waveforms... gonna look into that...

ericdano says

I think you should file a lawsuit and have the episode banned from broadcast. Fox should not be blatantly ripping off your song. I don't see it on iTunes though. Still, if they have recorded the song and plan on using it commercially you should block them. I mean, a good lawsuit is just what John Rodderick would love....and maybe could help him get that retired judge post he has always wanted.

Jeff says

They also say "Johnny C's" in trouble in their lyrics... no way they could have gotten that from the mixalot version...

Joel says

I am revolted.

You should get paid.

Bob says

I don't think the duck quack is in there. The backup girls start their "ahhh" right at the moment the quack would happen, so that's probably what you're hearing (and enhanced by the expectation of the quack).

ChuckEye says

The question might be, even though you paid Harry Fox Agency, did you ASK Sir-Mix-a-Lot for permission to create a derivative work?

http://www.acappella101.com/1/post/2012/02/who-owns-the-arrangement.html

Chris says

I'm gonna play Devil's Advocate here, and suggest the possibility that this could be a series of misunderstandings:
Jonathan released a karaoke version of his Baby Got Back
It's entirely possible that an a capella group, used it on a demo cd, or something of the like, which they then put online somewhere (I have a friend in a college a capella group who has done something similar)
the glee wiki heard that Glee will be using the song soon, somehow came across this a capella group, or this vocal group using what sounds like a Glee-Arrangement of the song and made the assumption that this recording was a leaking of the Glee version.

This would account for the exceeding similarities in the arrangement, the 'Johnny C' reference, and all that shenanigans

Or, maybe Glee is stealing from JoCo, who-because this is his arrangement of someone else's lyrics-is the composer of this piece of music, if my time as head of my high school's record label is correct.

do I make too many assumptions here? or does this seem relatively plausible?

Mario Panighetti says

I found the track on the Swedish iTunes Store, posted under "Glee Cast" for the artist:

https://itunes.apple.com/se/album/baby-got-back-glee-cast-version/id592420108

I think that's confirmation.

your uncle says

If you hire a lawyer, are you likely to get back enough money to cover the retainer?

HittingSmoke says

Even if the lyrics are used under a license with the original content owner, wouldn't the original musical score written by Coulton still be covered under his own license?

Paul R. Potts says

I have captured the audio from the Glee video and put it in Logic, and lined it up with JoCo's banjo source track. My goal was to see if I could prove that they were the same (or disprove it). I turned both tracks into mono, and attempted to get phase cancellation by lining up the gained-up banjo track and inverting it. I wouldn't expect that to be perfect because of level, mastering, pan changes, etc., but I couldn't get it to work at all. I then put a notch EQ on both tracks to isolate them as much as possible and see if I could hear differences. They are _INCREDIBLY_ close -- it stays in perfect alignment. But from what I can tell it is not the same performance -- the fingerpicking is very slightly different. It sounds to me as if a banjo player basically made a new recording playing along with JoCo's source track as precisely as humanly possible.

I'm curious if anyone else can replicate this result.

Marshall says

Found another legal info link similar to the one ChuckEye posted: http://info.legalzoom.com/song-arrangements-copyrighted-23709.html

So while your arrangement was substantially different enough to qualify as a derivative work, it sounds like you only licensed it as a cover. Your arrangement therefore does not have a copyright of it's own. On the other hand, if they are in fact using your raw audio stems from Joco Looks Back, there may be grounds to stand on there, though it's probably not worth it.

In any case, even if they don't owe you anything financially, leaving you out of the loop was incredibly rude. Here's hoping you at least get some new fans out of it.

jason says

I think everybody is looking way too much into this.

He never said he was going to sue. I'm pretty sure he just wants credit where credit is due and should they have to pay royalties for the use, so be it. I don't think his initial comment was to beg for money, rather to call them out for using it without contacting him at all. That is a dick move.

JoCo you're the bigger man here for not jumping the gun and causing a shit storm, you just called it how it was. It's the misunderstanding of your fanbase that is causing an insane amount of friction on youtube and multiple social media sites. Most of who (like myself admittedly) don't know a thing about what legal repercussions can be taken in this case.

Unless I'm mistaken and you really do want to sue. Well.. I would suggest hiring some good lawyers cause Fox and Glee are loaded with top legal reps lol

Just do the research you need to do, and keep us updated..

I don't think Glee stole the exact recording though. Finger picking sounds different to me, but I'm not an expert. For the most part they usually bump the key around to suit the singers voice type/range. In this case though he has a very similar voice type/range as you, so they probably kept the same key and such, but it sounds a bit different to me.

Craig says

Hey @worlebird - #whoisjohnnyc could be the new #whothefuckisarcadefire.

Gordon says

I have a friend in a band who covered a well known song, but with a very different arrangement. A film company hired a band to make a soundalike to this cover in a trailer. They were able to get a settlement because even though they weren't the authors of the original, their melody and arrangement was copyrightable. You should be able to get some money for the college fund here. I say go for it.

Paul R. Potts says

I take it back. The banjo is the most distinctive part, but after listening to the track together with the properly leveled mandolin and guitar parts I'm dead convinced they are using JoCo's source tracks.

JoeCovenant says

Hi All...
Heres my hugely scientific experiment...
Seems plain.

http://youtu.be/r7OMkXLtvrw
Here we go.... Coulton and 'Glee', side by side....
It's JoCo's backing tracks... and if not... they've cloned them!
So... Glee or not...?

Shan says

It's available at iTunes Sweden here (and you can listen to the preview there to see it's definitely the ripoff cover):

https://itunes.apple.com/se/album/baby-got-back-glee-cast-version/id592420108?i=592420188&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Erik B says

You should obviously consult a lawyer, but if you aren't getting paid for this usage then they are almost certainly violating your copyright. While multiple people can make covers, they clearly adopted your entire composition for commercial purposes, which makes this an unauthorized reproduction and takes it out of fair use. I imagine there was a screw up by their IP licensing team.

Dave says

I think you should sue, for the sole reason of forcing Fox to take the legal position that their blatant note-for-note, word-for-word use of your arrangement is fair use. Think of the gains for copyright freedom!

Thomas says

It's bizarre that they'd use the Johnny C part when it's supposed to be sung by a character named Adam (assuming the wiki is correct).

Brian Smith says

I think we (and FOX) can fix it by putting JoCo on GLEE...
https://www.change.org/petitions/fox-network-put-jonathan-coulton-on-glee

jason says

Even after listening to the side by side it doesn't sound similar. The picking is different in my opinion.

Shan says

From one of Glee's music producers:

Alex Anders ‏@alxanders
Some people can't see opportunity when it smacks them in the face.

Oliva says

Hey! Hypable...a big fan website...wrote an article on this! http://www.hypable.com/2013/01/18/glee-joco-baby-got-back-cover-rip-off/

Brett Glass says

One part of JoCo's version was derivative (the lyrics); the rest was original (e.g. the melody). I believe that JoCo has rights in the portion that was original, which would include the backing track that they used without seeking permission. The "duck quack" could easily have been edited out.

Martin says

Assuming they didn't use your actual recording as a backing track (and re-recorded it), what would prevent them from getting a compulsory mechanical license on this song for their cover, similar to how you got one for the original from Harry Fox?

The point of a compulsory mechanical license is that it's compulsory - you do not need to obtain permission from the original artist, even if they have a copyright on it.

Per US Copyright Law:

"A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner."

You clearly made substantial changes to the original arrangement, which makes it questionable whether your substantial re-arrangement could be covered by a compulsory license. There's quite a bit of ambiguity in that codicil; your style of performance was very different from the original, and so "the extent necessary to conform [the song] to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved" could be interpreted pretty broadly. So you've got a strong case that your release of the cover under a compulsory license was legitimate.

That part about not being subject to protection as a derivative work seems relevant here, also. I'm not sure what protections are afforded a rearrangement of the original song that hasn't been blessed by the original artist as an independently copyrightable derivative work. I suppose that someone who wanted to cover your cover would actually, then, have to get a mechanical license for the original, just as you did - but informing (or indeed, interacting) with you may not be a requirement.

This, of course, is all the technical stuff about what had to occur legally, which is a completely different question than whether this was a "dick move."

Brett Glass says

P.S. -- When you use a work in an audiovisual production (such as an episode of "Glee"), it isn't sufficient to obtain a compulsory mechanical license. You must also obtain a "synchronization" license. Glee would need to approach Jonathan for this, as it can't be obtained through Harry Fox.

Martin says

Ah I forgot about the dreaded synchronization license. Good point.

Of course, if JoCo doesn't have an independent copyright on the arrangement (which he may not be able to get based on the fact that it was done under a mechanical license), the point may be moot.

Brett Glass says

Also, from LegalZoom, at http://info.legalzoom.com/song-arrangements-copyrighted-23709.html:

Derivative Works

A more substantial rearrangement of copyrighted music constitutes a derivative work. If the new composer does not own the copyright in the original song upon which the arrangement is based, he must obtain permission from the copyright holder to create such a work. The original copyright holder is not required to grant permission, and may charge a licensing fee for such use. Once the arrangement is recorded or written in sheet music, the arranger has a copyright in the new arrangement as a derivative work. This copyright does not extend to the original work itself, and only covers the copyrightable changes or additions the new arranger created.

...

Arrangement Copyrights

Copyright protection exists in an arrangement the moment it is fixed in any tangible form, as by recording the arrangement or writing it in sheet music. As a copyright holder, the arranger has exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute and perform his arrangement. If the arrangement is recorded, either the arranger or the producer of the recording acquires an additional copyright in the sound recording of the song. U.S. law does not require these copyrights to be registered. However, copyright registration creates a record of ownership and allows copyright holders to sue in federal court if their copyrights are infringed.

Martin says

Indeed. So the question is, what is JoCo's cover of "Baby Got Back," legally speaking? Is it a cover, a rearrangement, or both?

Without the original copyright holder's (Sir Mix-a-Lot's, I assume) permission, it cannot be a rearrangement, legally speaking. It's just a reinterpretation of the original, and any rearranging that was done is not copyrightable. Mechanical license covers aren't supposed to be huge rearrangements in the first place. Hm.

Phil says

Someone posted Alex Anders' Twitter handle, buuuut, Adam Anders, Glee's producer, is also on Twitter. Didn't see it posted, so: @adamanders. I've tweeted to try and connect 'em, but maybe more people need to start screaming at the Glee guys to have a conversation.

I would really love to see JoCo + Glee's creative peeps figure this out.

Michael L says

I'm pretty sure JC has a dead to rights case for them skipping out on the sync license for the original parts and the Arrangement copyright, even if they did get this song through innocent means (hearing a non-commercial group perform it, etc).

Martin says

"I’m pretty sure JC has a dead to rights case for them skipping out on the sync license for the original parts and the Arrangement copyright"

The open question is: does JC have an arrangement copyright? Is he even eligible for one? With only a mechanical license and without Sir Mix-a-Lot's explicit permission to rearrange the song, I believe the answer is probably "no." Ironically the Glee folks would probably have to obtain a sync license from Sir Mix-a-Lot to perform a cover of JC's cover.

Has the episode actually aired yet? I assume it will, reading that wikia page, but if it hasn't then a sync license of any kind may not be required...yet...

Janice says

The media are picking this stunt up:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/121601-Glee-Rips-Off-Jonathan-Coulton
http://kotaku.com/5977149/glee-egregiously-rips-off-jonathan-coulton
http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2013/01/joco-glee/
http://www.fuse.tv/2013/01/did-glee-rip-off-geek-rocker-jonathan-coulton
http://www.geekosystem.com/glee-rips-off-jonathan-coulton/
http://www.avclub.com/articles/jonathan-coulton-says-glee-ripped-off-his-cover-of,91305/
http://wonkette.com/497479/plagiarizing-cast-of-glee-to-perform-at-inaugural-ball-turn-nation-gay
http://www.csicon.net/legitimate-reason-to-dislike-glee/
http://thenextweb.com/media/2013/01/18/foxs-glee-appears-to-have-copie-off-jonathan-coultons-arrangement-of-baby-got-back/

Janice says

Also, the episode will air next thursday.

SSteve says

Copyrights and mechanicals and syncs and compulsories and monkeys aside, they ripped the hell off of Jonathan Coulton. I just listened to the Glee version and I'm appalled. And I'm not the only one. I do believe they have brought down upon themselves the full and collected fury of the internet the likes of which we may never have witnessed before. For The Noodly Appendage's sake, they even say "Johnny C"!

Somewhere in a room, some glee producers and Fox execs are frantically trying to figure out how they're going to get themselves out of this one.

Brett Glass says

This from the US Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf:

Any work in which the editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications represent, as a whole, an original work of authorship is a derivative work or a new version. A typical derivative work registered in the Copyright Office is a primarily new work but incorporates some previously published material. The previously published material makes the work a derivative work under copyright law.

To be copyrightable, a derivative work must differ sufficiently from the original to be regarded as a new work or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify a work as a new version for copyright purposes. The new material must be original and copyrightable in itself. Titles, short phrases, and formatting are not copyrightable.

Tory BC says

Mr. Coulton,

My family loves your music, and as an artist, I am appalled that a television entity would use its vastly superior size and influence to assume ownership of your intellectual material without even the decency of contacting you.

I sincerely hope you seek monetary recompense.

Also, I'm happy to axe murder anyone involved if you can give me an address.

worlebird says

@Craig
Maybe. It seems like #backgate is getting more traction. Ah, well. So much for my 15 minutes of fame *chuckle*. Either way the thing is getting publicity.

filkertom says

Yeesh. This is open and shut, JoCo. Your melody, your arrangement: both copyrightable, both licenseable. At the very damn least, they should prominently display your name. Money's good, too.

Jon Murphy says

Get a temporary restraining order to stop the show from being aired next week. This is pretty damn important.

stphntylr says

I know there is a youtube side by side already, but I threw the glee version on the left channel and the JoCo karaoke audio on the right. Bounced it, its pretty clear to me.

https://soundcloud.com/stphntylr/joco-v-glee-baby-got-back?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=twitter&utm_content=https://soundcloud.com/stphntylr/joco-v-glee-baby-got-back

Brian Smith says

It's starting to trend quickly on Twitter.

pdxfoodmama says

I love the "itty bitty waste" part!

ecocd says

I'm with Tom Smith here. Big prominent "Melody and Arrangement by Jonathan Coulton" on the broadcast might do more than a sweep-it-under-the-carpet settlement. The former will drive Google traffic. Both would be even better.

Of course, iTunes sales are another matter entirely. That will never circle traffic back to JoCo.

Alec says

I think we should get in some vans and go kick some GLEE ass! I wouldn't mind putting a foot or two in some motherf**kers ass!

Jeremy says

What's with the soulless auto-tuned blandness of this? Legal issues aside, I found that pretty unsettling.

Baby Got Screwed says

They also kept the "Johnny C's in trouble" portion of your cover.

SSteve says

"I love the 'itty bitty waste' part!"

Well, Jonathan cares a lot about reducing the load on the world's landfills.

not your lawyer says

Check out 17 U.S.C. s. 115(a)(2). IF you only received the compulsory mechanical license, and not explicit permission from the publisher of the original song, it is likely that you do not have any copyright in your cover version.

Please contact an attorney if you wish to look more into it.

*this post is not intended to be legal advice. I am not your lawyer, and this post creates no lawyer-client relationship of any kind! Please contact your own attorney for a more detailed review and advice.*

Eleanor Watts says

I'm not sure exactly, but I grew up with an IP lawyer for a father (it was thrilling) and I'm pretty sure there's a caveat for "derivative works" where, if new material such as a melody or different orchestration appears, you would own copyright for it. It may be that you have to register copyright for it though.

Either way, it was a shitty move on their part, especially as there are now rabid Glee fangirls defending their actions (oh, how I wish I was joking.) It reflects poorly on the actors as well; I quite like some of the actors on Glee but I've been uncomfortable with the show's writing and direction for a long time now.

AuntiLaura says

I have a musician friend who was watching Good Morning America one day and heard her song played. She tells me she contacted GMA's office and let them know that was her song and they paid her plus "oops, sorry about that" apology.

ThomasT says

Glad to see you got the compulsory mechanical license; I'd been wondering. However, while I am not a lawyer, and DEFINITELY not an IP lawyer, it seems pretty clear that you violated that license. And even if you had stayed within the bounds of the license, by using that license, you were representing that you weren't asserting copyright over adjusting the song to your style. From http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#115 (a)(2):
"A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner."

Now, obviously this doesn't make it right for Fox to swipe your arrangement, and they almost certainly didn't know that you didn't have a derivative works license (though they may have, since they would have had to go to Mix's people to get a sync license for it).

So, Glee still sucks for doing this, but I would be surprised if you get much out of it. Because you either have to admit to violating the license you obtained if you want to assert copyright, or maintain that you stayed within the boundaries of that license, which means you have no copyright.

Adam says

This is interesting. You can't get the "Glee Cast Version" on US iTunes anymore, but you can, apparently, still get it from a number of international mirrors where they haven't pulled it yet, such as here from Sweden https://itunes.apple.com/se/album/baby-got-back-glee-cast-version/id592420108.
Evidence?
Oh, and here's my source:
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/01/glee-egregiously-rips-off-jonathan-coulton/
See Fox, how easy it is to credit people?
Jerks...

Jeffool says

While I have no idea if Coulton's new melody would revert to the initial copyright holders, this is pretty obviously the exact same recording, not just a new performance of Coulton's original melody (regardless of who owns it).

Some kind soul on Reddit actually put each song in a different channel in a single recording. Coulton's can be heard in the right channel, and Glee's in the left:

https://soundcloud.com/suudo/joco-vs-glee-baby-got-back

I'm fairly confident it's the same recording, sir. You were right.

Michael Betsanes says

Jonathan,
I saw you in concert in Chicago up to 6 years back when you were first demonstrating your Blue Sunny Day, and up to that time purchased all the music from your site, which many people have since enjoyed on car rides with me.

Not all of them are fans, but they remember your different take on We Are The Champions and Baby Got Back most of all, not to mention your other popular songs.

Check out this youtube channel. It's the Glee official channel, GleeSeason4Songs:
http://youtu.be/Yww4BLjReEk
The reddit article to see what some people are saying:
http://www.reddit.com/r/Music/comments/16trp4/glee_shamelessly_rips_off_jonathan_coultons_baby/

What ownership do you have over your cover of a song? I never thought about implications of this before and would really like to know.

Isaac says

I went and listened to the one linked in a few of the above comments (http://youtu.be/Yww4BLjReEk). Frankly, I couldn't hear the duck quack, even with headphones on and the volume turned up. Maybe I'm missing it though.

That said, it DEFINITELY seems like you should at least get an apology. I hope it goes well!

Blind Lemming Chiffon says

On the point of derivative works . . . your alteration of the melody for humorous purposes could be covered by fair use under the Supreme Court ruling in the 2 Live Crew case, and if your melody is original, I'm thinking it's covered by copyright as a melody, and they have to pay you to use it. Also, since they didn't do it in advance, it's possible a lawyer could get you an injunction to prevent the show from being aired, or a whole lot of money from Fox. This is not legal advice, I'm not a lawyer, but my advice to you as a fan is it would be very wise to find a smart, experienced copyright attorney and ask these questions.

jason says

@Michael Bestanos That's not Glee's official YouTube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/user/GleeOnFox

That is Glee's official YouTube channel.

Wonkyworld says

so i clicked the soundcloud link and hit play , didnt realize until halfway through that there were 2 tracks, if that tells you anything.

Angelastic says

Oh geez, when I saw Paul and Storm tweet something about your arrangement for a song being on Glee, I assumed you'd actually collaborated with them and been paid+credited, so when I heard your instrumental track I just figured you'd reused it to save time or something. If it is actually on Glee and they didn't even talk to you about it, that's not good. :(

Dave M. says

Yea, that is just crazy wild hearing the glee version and joco version being pretty much identical and certainly musically absolutely identical. So much so that you could probably "noise cancel" out the instruments and just leave the vocals from both sides.

I hope this is just a misunderstanding by the Glee folks. I really can't believe that they would, on purpose, steal music from anyone for use in the show. They have to know that there are legal issues, even if they were using a cover of Baby Got Back (JoCo's cover) and not the actual song.

I wonder if Jonathan has a "karaoke" version of this song so that all the Glee folks would have to do is have the actors sing like JoCo does on the track.

Robert Anton says

I hope this works out well for you. Either way you look at it, it's great publicity for an indie artist to have so much buzz going. Use it well and find ways to pimp your music as much as you can in the process of working this all out.

Much Success

Alex B. says

My first thought was that they got a hold of the karaoke version and just put new vocals over it.. but I refuse to believe that's something that could even be done at this point because I have SOME faith in the world.

Kesey says

All I hear is Leaving on a Jet Plane.

James says

On Facepunch someone has put a side-by-side version of your songs together Jonathon. Thought you should know, it's pretty evidetn you have been ripped off. Who knows, maybe you could sue them and force them to give you your hard earned $$$?

Fan 4 life (well since portal 1).

Thread: http://www.facepunch.com/showthread.php?t=1240644
Side by side: https://soundcloud.com/alacrion/joco-v-glee

greg says

if there is a silver lining to this controversy is that i discovered your music and now i'm heading over to the mp3 store to spend some money.

greg says

re: kesey's comment

wow! i heard that, too. that was exactly my first thought when i listened to the song on slate.com through the youtube link.

BrotherLightswitch says

The Quack is ABSOLUTELY there. This is so disgraceful. Fight the injustice, JoCo! We're ALL with you!!

Brett Glass says

By the way, one way to view JoCo's version -- which would give him an even better argument -- is that it's a "setting," as in setting a poem to music. (The original Sir Mix-A-Lot piece had no melody, so it's valid to regard it as poetry rather than a musical work.) His melody isn't derivative, because there was not one before. So, it stands alone as his own copyrighted work. As does his music track.

Michael Betsanes says

@jason
Thanks, sorry I didn't pay as much attention as I should have.

Craig says

I've posted an article to Buzzfeed and it's starting to take off:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/cclark/glee-rips-off-jonathan-coultons-cover-of-baby-4l06

@JoeCovenant I used your video in the article and I think it really helped give it a boost, so thanks!

P.F. Bruns says

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm on your side.

jason says

@Michael Betsanes
No problem, I just want everything to be 100% accurate on here so that anybody who can help has the facts. I'm a fan of Glee and JoCo so I want to see this settled ASAP without tarnishing the name of Glee too much :P
I just wanna see the credit given and should royalties have to be paid, so be it, other artists are paid for their work. $15k-$30k per song depending on the artists or a small percentage of sales profit from what I've read.

Frozen says

Not sure how much this helps, but this is the quack as isolated as I could get it.

http://i.imgur.com/mZy2G7F.png

The top (left channel) is your quack, and the bottom (right channel) is the Glee quack.

TheRidGE says

There is definitely a very quiet quack in there. I have the clip in audacity of just that line, and I can post it wherever, I just don't have the right tools to pull out the quack. Any suggestions for what to do to make the quack more prevalent, or where to upload it to?

Frozen says

@TheRidGE all you have to do is compare the waveform itself. The quack is from 0.10 to 0.30 and the structure is nearly identical. The glee one is heavily cleaned up which is why it's so hard to hear, but you can see the entire thing when seeing it side by side with the original quack.

Jeff Phinney says

stphntylr did a good thing with throwing the karaoke version on the left channel and the Glee version on the left.

https://soundcloud.com/stphntylr/joco-v-glee-baby-got-back?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=twitter&utm_content=https://soundcloud.com/stphntylr/joco-v-glee-baby-got-back

It's very evident to me that the Glee folks used the Coulton karaoke version.
it's appears that they did noting more than isolated the bass portion as separate track to where both tracks together form a center field, while with the remainder they added reverb/delay to put the remainder of the original in the background and then added their vocals over the top. If one listens very closely with a fairly good pair of headphones you can hear the quack and also discern that the Coulton karaoke vocal backing is still in the Glee version. Pretty sloppy job of theft if you ask me.

TheRidGE says

OOH! We should send the FOX corporate office mountains of toys that make a quacking sound. Maybe not the toys themselves, but the small device that makes the quack sound. Hundreds of boxes. Quackers. Because they so blatently stole his work, that they even failed to cut the quack.

Or maybe I'm too amused by those croudsourced stunts done for other shows. Maybe I should just sleep for tonight...

Arthur Hampton says

It might be interesting to look through the logs for who purchased the karaoke track. If Glee used the karaoke version of Baby Got Back and failed to pay Jonathan Coulton the one dollar to download the song, Jonathan might have a very strong case. But I Am Not A Lawyer.

your uncle says

You all may want to talk to New Order about what happened when they ripped off "Leaving On A Jet Plane" in their song "Run 2".

Jeff Phinney says

Ok, I now feel like an idiot.

So I'm going to retract what i said @ 12;11 on 1/19. I'm not certain what happened, but I think https://soundcloud.com/suudo/joco-vs-glee-baby-got-back
is a much better reflection of the reality I initially thought I was listening to.
Sorry to everyone.......

Tom says

JC. Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of the women. This is what is best in life.

Sniffer says

crush them like codemonkeys crush tab.

Get crushed.

Internet says

There is no duck quack in the Glee one but everything else seems to be ripped off from yours. If you go to court I am sure you will win.

Brent Yard says

Well looks like whoever chose the music for that episode might lose his job lol, out of all the internet covers they pick yours, a very well known and well backed by fan artist, ontop of it you actually released it! god isnt corporate america stupid!!

Jack says

I feel sick to my stomach. A cover is one thing, but this... I can't even believe how angry this is making me. What?

sam says

Regardless of whether or not they legally had the right to use your version without your permission, its still a dick move

Another fan says

Sue the fuck out of them. This is awful and probably illegal.

Craig says

Somebody summed this up better than I ever could. The Legalities of Glee: A Rough Guide to Why Everyone’s Pissed about Baby Got Back: http://scarletfever6.tumblr.com/post/40916328892/the-legalities-of-glee-a-rough-guide-to-why-everyones

Jaram says

I actually walked in on my wife checking out the glee cover via her iPhone, and the first words out of my mouth: "Oh, enjoying the Jonathon Coulton version of 'Baby Got Back?'" At the time, I had no idea that Glee was even planning to do the song, much less this variation.
The fact that my instinct was to believe it was the version you had created and not an original cover (or even a re-imaging of your cover) is, to say the least, unsettling.

mizzie says

You know, I don't care one way or the other about the legality of it. It's pretty shitty to take someone's work without giving credit. JoCo has always been very cool about people using his work, as it gets his name out there. Heck, that's how he got a majority of his fans! But you need to give him proper credit.

If the makers of Glee had taken five minutes to call him up, we wouldn't all be in this mess.

And, yes, I hear the quack. It's VERY faint, but it is there.

Lostcheshire says

They should cast JoCo as a Science teacher. Then he could help raise the morale of some heartbroken geek and they could sing "The Future Soon" as a duet.

I don't like Glee one bit but it is a very popular show and they have more to offer than money. They can offer exposure. #whoisJohnnyC

Brian Kelly says

http://www.gleebabygotback.com and http://www.babygotbackglee.com now point to http://jococom.wpengine.com/2013/01/18/baby-got-back-and-glee/

Hopefully this well help push more people here when Glee fans are searching for the song in a few weeks?

Leisa says

To Brian Kelly: Well, aren't you a sweetheart! I don't know why I didn't think of that yesterday.

Chris says

I, like many here, am not an audio engineer... but listening to the soundcloud comparison, it's impossible to believe JoCo's original recording was not used in glee's version. Sucks that now JoCo has to dump many dollars into lawyer's pockets just to defend his own work. This won't die until justice is served!

sweet greggo says

Ha, you'll need to add a helluva lot more autotune if you want to sound like Glee!

Warren says

I've had this happen in the past, with my music, and find out 6 months later via a BMI royalty statement (and get paid for the sync license). This instance seems to be a little more complicated as (1) It's a cover song and (2) They have actually modified the original by adding vocals. I'm honestly not sure if that changes the rules, but you may just be in for a nice royalty bump later on (assuming you use BMI/ASCAP or equivalent).

Craig says

@Brian Kelly, that's awesome. I just added those links to my Buzzfeed article. Moral of the story: don't mess with JoCo or his fans will come after you.

What says

http://www.reddit.com/r/Music/comments/16trp4/glee_shamelessly_rips_off_jonathan_coultons_baby/c7zjgcw

Cliff says

My only thought is PLEASE, if you were not going to watch Glee before this happened, DO NOT watch it just to say "See! They did steal his work!"

That will boost the number of viewers for the episode, and make the program look better than it should in terms of viewership. I'm sure there are a few people here who were going to watch anyway (my girlfriend being one of them) and we can get word from them if it actually happens. Let's not get so angry about this that we end up shooting ourselves in the foot...

Another Lawyer says

Some of the comments have suggested that since the copyright to the song "Baby Got Back" is owned by someone else (whether it's Sir Mix-a-Lot, the original record label, or some other company), you wouldn't have the right to bring an infringement suit against Fox, even if Glee copied your arrangement. I'm not sure that's necessarily true. It has been a long time since I studied copyright law, but my recollection is that even if you don't have a copyright interest in the original musical composition of "Baby Got Back," you still own the audio recording of your cover. So if Glee sampled your actual recording of the song to produce their version - and listening to the two versions, it sounds like they did - they violated *your* copyright.

*And yes, standard note that I am not your lawyer and that this comment should not be relied upon as legal advice or construed to create an attorney-client relationship*

Zacqary Adam Green says

They didn't even bother to get your multitracks to remove the duck quack?

Jeff Phinney says

Chris,
There are at least two versions floating around on Sound Cloud(pun intended), adding a great deal of confusion to the issue. The latter SoundCloud version is the one to pay attention to.
The former initially tripped me up since it has the Glee track with Coulton's karaoke version all mixed in on the left channel. The Latter SoundCloud file has ONLY the Glee version in the left channel (No Quack or Coulton's backing vocals heard) and Couton's original version is on the right:

https://soundcloud.com/stphntylr/joco-v-glee-baby-got-back?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=twitter&utm_content=https://soundcloud.com/stphntylr/joco-v-glee-baby-got-back

https://soundcloud.com/suudo/joco-vs-glee-baby-got-back

Mike Harris says

Let's of course not forget the most damning part: they left "Johnny C's in trouble" intact! Are they truly that stupid?

Roz Warren says

What's wrong with these idiots?

This is the 21st century. You can no longer get away with shit like this.

Patrick Plamondon says

I am like 75% sure I hear a quack @ 2:41 in the glee version. It's much quieter, but there is definitely something there. And the fact that not only will they benefit from ad revenue during the episode, they are actually selling the track on iTunes- even if it falls into a grey area of copyright law, this rip-off is so blatant I have no doubts that a judge/jury would rule on the side of JoCo. If the law is 50/50 but you have every single fact on your side, I'd say you're still in good shape.

Turing Eret says

IANAL, but isn't a derivative work that demonstrates significant original derivation from the original protected by copyright? This isn't a rote cover of Baby Got Back and is a significant reinterpretation of the song, so it seems that you might own a copyright on this particular interpretation of Baby Got Back. Of course, I don't know how copyright rules play out with music and whether this is considered to demonstrate significant original content or not.

David says

I don't hear the quack on the source files, but I do hear it (albeit very faint) in the Glee version.

Kerry says

After listening to the Glee cover within a cover (Is this the Inception episode?), I'm convinced they used your tracks and just recorded their vocals over them. It's dirty pool and you're right to call them on it. Intellectual property theft stinks and if they did it purposely because they know you lack the backing of a big label, shame on them. If they did it without understanding the ramifications, someone at Fox needs to start looking for a new job. Either way, if they want to call out your name at a crucial moment in the song, they should at least send flowers...or a big bag of suet.

TJ Crowell says

I do not see Glee's cover on the American iTunes store anymore, so far one more step towards greatness. Good luck, Jonathan!

Richard E says

Listening to Jeff Phinney's examples, and particularly the second, suggests an infringement on Coulton's arrangement. It's hard to tell from one ear versus the other, but in this case parts of the arrangement that are identical should appear in the centre of the pseudo-stereo and those that are different on the edges.

It seems to me, listening to the above, that the drums at least are indeed in the middle. To see if elements of the actual recordings are the same, you need to synch the two tracks together, and set the levels to the same as above, and listen to the mix in *mono*, varying the speed of one of them as necessary to keep them in sync. If parts of the recordings are the same, those elements should "flange" audibly as the speed is adjusted to keep them tracking together with an audible null as they cross, or at least some comb-filtering.

AFAIK (but I'm not a lawyer), if you arrange someone else's song then you are entitled to a cut of the royalties because you originated the arrangement.

Dave says

Audio forensics? You can compare the mains frequency hum and if its identical, there's no way there's is an independent recording.

Matt says

I think the quack is important, but what's more important is that they literally left in his name with "Johnny C's in trouble." Irrefutable proof that they copied his version word for word, sound for sound.

Doug says

Hey Jonathan. Firstly, I love your music, especially when May 1st rolls around. I walk around all day silently singing that song in my head like a dirty secret that no one around me knows.

Anyways. This whole situation with Glee fascinates me. I have seen some people getting outraged because they feel that Glee is treating you unfairly. I don't know where all the legal issues stand as far as what royalties you should be due, but I do recognize a couple of important factors that have been impressed upon me. Glee has a large viewership. The arrangement of your song may cause a surge of interest into your other music. It is advertising essentially. Beyond that, I would actually love to see you, Jonathan, on Glee. Not just your music, but you actually making an appearance. That would be hilarious and awesome. I could see you either showing up as yourself and interacting with Artie or taking on your own brief role as a side character in an episode.

Regardless, whatever happens I hope that this whole situation only strengths your fandom and does not diminish it.

Emma says

Doug, the problem is that it's only advertising if they credit his name somewhere, and so far they show no signs of planning to do that.

To my ears it's fairly clear they used at least some of Joco's source audio. As a semi-professional singer who has done some recording work, I just can't believe they could have synced it up that perfectly if they hadn't.

Marc says

So I've been a fan for ages, but I've never actually owned a copy of Baby Got Back. Chalk up one sale of Thing-a-week 1 to this ordeal, and I bet I'm not the only one.

Michael says

This reminds me of...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LP-uIlwk6Rk

Patrick Plamondon says

You should file for an injunction against Fox on Monday to prevent them from airing the episode (or at least the portion of the episode w/ your song). It probably wouldn't actually work, but it might force a response from Fox and would get some media attention for sure. The rip-off is so blatant there would probably be a good amount of public backlash and a lot of positive exposure for you.

Jason says

Okay we gotta get one thing straight.

FOX HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CHOOSING, PRODUCTION, RELEASE, etc etc OF THE SONGS ON GLEE. All they do is produce and air the show. Fox isn't at fault here.

Glee's music production team are the one at fault here and their creators (Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk) who have a hand in picking the songs for the episodes.

Should a lawsuit be filed, Fox will back them, but this is 100% on the heads of Glee.. not the heads of Fox.

If we're gonna go ballistic, can we at least be correct with our arguments as to not look stupid please -_-

Houstonheart says

Wait a second. I heard a very similar folk version in the mid 90's. As well as a country version. The guitar melody shares the rit o another song. May want to be careful. Since a license too use aspects of another song doesn't give intellectual rights.

Glee uses songs of other aspects, in this case, Sir Mix a lot. Now if they do a version of another artists version, unless you own the song, it doesn't give you rights for compensation.

I am sure they researched some other songs like I noticed. Just in case. Better off feeling blessed if you in fact wrote the melody aspect, and not get yourself in to deep. Besides it is nothing that has officially aired. This can back fire.

Houstonheart says

Just need to add this little tid bit.

If you make a stink with a show that has far more fans then yourself. It will only hurt you. Millions of fans can either end up checking out your version with support, or with negativity. You should aim not for a buck to something you used from another artist yourself, but as a way to promote yourself free in in good light.

Eric says

Jason, the injunction that Patrick proposes is 100% appropriate. The injunction doesn't say "Fox owes me money" or that "Fox did something wrong." Injunction says "there's a legal complication here and airing the episode with allegedly stolen intellectual content would be bad faith and they shouldn't do it." Suing the producers of Glee would not do anything to prevent that. The injunction would push no penalty or presumption (let alone conviction) of guilt.

Eric says

Also, it is appropriate, from a legal standpoint, to contact Fox. As they are broadcasting the show. If Fox feels there is a problem, that puts a LOT of pressure on the show's producers. Fox IS an interested party.

@Houstonheart this all assumes that Glee plans on making any sort of credit to joco, which so far looks unlikely. If that is the case, how in the world should he "feel blessed" that they stole his ideas and used them to make money without even notifying him?

And yes, if he wrote new music to go with the song, he has the rights to the music he wrote. It's not material whether the lyrics belonged to someone else and he licensed them. He wrote new intellectual property, and that IP is being used by Glee. That is the contention, and that's a far cry from what I see you describing. It's not seeking a buck from something he didn't do; it's seeking for recognition for something he DID do.

All of my statement, of course, assumes that what JoCo thinks may have happened actually has happened. Which, you will note, he has not asserted. He is merely investigating whether it is the case by stating the evidence that led him to believe it.

Now, if he had come out screaming and calling names and shouting for blood, that would be bad form. But he hasn't made any threats to seek any sort of action, so what he's done is entirely appropriate. And if Glee itself never refers to him, well, Glee fans who are not already JoCo fans will not ever know about it, so they can hardly hurt him.

Shmuel says

"Doug, the problem is that it’s only advertising if they credit his name somewhere, and so far they show no signs of planning to do that."

I dunno; I think leaving "Johnny C.'s in trouble" is a pretty strong sign that they're not planning to hide anything. It's practically neon. How people are somehow interpreting that as a mark of Glee's mendacity is beyond me.

Duznot says

This is obscene. I checked at 2:41, and I can still hear a faint quack in the left channel at 2:41. That plus the unmodified lyric means this is a massive ripoff, and while Coulton doens't own the lyrics, the melody and arrangement are entirely his. There had better be something substantial done, here. A flicker in the ending credits won't be enough, either; a pre-show apology or advisory, plus a cut of the iTunes profits would be a start.

helene says

This is rip-off deluxe. it sucks. They should have asked you for permission to use your arrangement of the song

GoToTUNESAT says

Go to Tunesat. They have the technology to positively ID any song from the unique signature of any and all songs created...like a fingerprint. It's the same general technology that Zhazam uses. If it's the same song, there will be a positive match ID. BMAT is another company that does the same thing.

Roger Wilco says

Warren (way up at the top) has it right. They've covered your arrangement of a song, which you didn't write. You originally licensed the publishing from Harry Fox, which covered the songwriting, not the arrangement or production. You can't copyright arrangement without permission from the original songwriter or the owner of the song.

In the end you might get a performance royalty check from BMI or ASCAP, but the copyright is not yours to own.

Of course, if Glee just wrote "I don't claim to own this song" in their YouTube description, there wouldn't be an issue, as we all know that's how to avoid copyright conflict these days.

Joe S. says

The Glee version actually says "Johnny C.'s in trouble".... definitely a ripoff!

Patrick says

I think every Jonathan Coulton fan who makes music should record a cover of JoCo's version and post it to YouTube this week (under the Creative Commons License of course.)

James Jones says

The quack is way down in the mix, but it's there.

Patrick says

For my money, Jonathan Coulton should own copyrights on his music to this song for the exact same reasons Weird Al ho should hold the copyrights to his lyrics, even though he is copying the song. JoCo's version is a parody, just as are those of Weird Al.

Sean says

Maybe they can get away with it on a technicality, but even if they could, it's in pretty awful taste to not only use an originally composed arrangement without giving credit (To be fair, it's not like they put Mix-a-Lot's name anywhere on it but everyone knows who he is), do it without asking, turning around and selling it on iTunes, while being an accessory to the show's overall content and quality. So, even if it ends up being there's no legal option here, it's nice to see people giving them a little bit of hell and hope the pressure will force them to be more respectful in the future.

Blind Lemming Chiffon says

I am pleased to see an update saying that JoCo's lawyers are researching the issues. Perhaps all us amateur lawyers should relax and wait to hear what happens. Oh, and whoever said the lawyers should file an injunction Monday morning, well, aren't the courts closed Monday for the national holiday?

Jen S says

Glee also did this with Nouvelle Vague's cover of "Dancing With Myself" in the first season.
http://youtu.be/dbgvAp1_DvE
http://youtu.be/cm1JLALfwmE

Jeff M says

I like to think that there's no such thing as bad publicity... At best, someone involved in the episode production has simply goofed up; at worst, someone tried to cut corners and has been caught in it. Let the producers try to save face, don't feed too many trolls or lawyers along the way, and see if this can't be turned into some positive PR for team JoCo.

But now that I think of it... Glee did a version of "Bills, bills, bills" a while ago that sounded VERY familiar... Can someone check that for us? :^)

Jeff M says

Oh... And everyone should put a distinctive and traceable audio watermark in their work from now on; Something subtle, like a duck quack, or your name.

Ben B says

I'd say Ryan M.'s in trouble ;)

Josh W says

ok in true open source fashion I ripped the audio from both vids and threw them side by side in Audacity and played them. the vocals sound out of sync but the music sync's up, so well in fact that you cant tell there are 2 music tracks. Usually when someone will cover something there's some musical difference between versions, even the big name artists cant reproduce exactly what they play in the studio live.
I'v worked in tv for 12 years most of that doing audio, so in my humble opinion they stole your music track. and for the record there is a quack.
feel free to contact me if you like.

GoToTUNESAT says

He has rights to the master use only (i.e. the recording itself), not the publishing (unless the song was registered as a derivative copyright). If they used his actual recording, he's due the master use fees. If he registered the song as a derivative copyright, he would have 25% or so of the publishing as well (and 25% of performance). I bet he didn't do that. Now, if he had registered his new melody as something completely different (different title, etc), he could conceivably lobby for both master and pub infringement.

uglyredhonda says

The Glee version is still on sale on iTunes Sweden. (It's the third most popular Glee Cast song at the moment.) The thing is - you don't need to be in Sweden to hear it or see it. Just open iTunes, hit the Change Country link at the bottom of the page (or the flag icon in the bottom right corner), and pick Sweden. You can preview it, too. The copyright for the Glee version there is "Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation".

Innocent Bystander says

I love how everyone is conveniently ignoring that JoCo ripped off "Leaving On A Jet Plane."

Kesey says

@Innocent Bystander: Agreed. I said this back here regarding Leaving on a Jet Plane.

http://jococom.wpengine.com/2013/01/18/baby-got-back-and-glee/comment-page-2/#comment-663460

Junior Blackwell says

@Innocent Bystander and @ Kesey

It seems like you are trying to defend Glee, which is totally understandable, since the JoCo peeps try to defend JoCo's side, as well.

However, a similar chord progression or vague similarities in melody is a whole other category than the #backgate here. It's not like JoCo used John Denver's instrumentals and gave it new lyrics. He did a completely new arrangement which Glee used without his permission.

It does not change the morality of the issue by trying to assign blame the other way around. It's like saying "Well, I wasn't the only person who was speeding, that other car was going pretty fast, too".

John says

The episode hasn't aired yet, and it looks like Coulton himself is still a little unsure if it's even from Glee...where was this originally heard, and how do we know it's from Glee? Couldn't it be, for example...an actual, real-life glee club? I think nobody knows enough about the situation to make a call here...

Chloe says

Considering the Fox lawyers know what they're doing, I'm fairly certain they won't be doing any actually illegal, just kinda underhanded and definitely not cool.

The main thing that has come out of this, for me at least, is finding out about all of the smaller artists who have had similar things done in the past but haven't had the internet following to really make a splash. Having listened to these versions, I admit many are close, though not as blatant as Baby Got Back purely because of how different Coulton's version is. It's kinda nice that these people are finally being heard.

And, while I'm hearing the comments about Leaving On A Jet Plan, I really feel that these are two different issues. Jonathan Coulton, by virtue of living in this world and listening to music probably has Leaving On A Jet Plane somewhere in his head and in arranging Baby Got Back, though possibly not intentional, he comes up a similar melody. Just by how our brains work, it's probable that most melodies come, in some part, from somewhere that is not purely us.

This is very different to producing a song that lines up exactly note for note with a current arrangement. I imagine the odds of that are closer to the likelihood of two different couples children that are genetically identically to each other.

The same Chloe as before says

Though I definitely agree with people chilling until it comes out. I don't know much about tv, but the paranoid part of me can definitely see a new song being substituted in at short notice just to make the hubbub seem ridiculous.

But on a nicer note, Jonathan Coulton, I absolutely love your music and your good guy attitude to the internet awesome. I really feel that the way you get your music out to people should be the way of the future. As a Southern Hemispherian, Christmas in July was just about my favourite Christmas song this year. Thanks for being awesome :)

timnlill says

Just want to let it be known that I am a 23-year employee of the US Copyright Office's Licensing Division. So if I can can offer any advice about Section 115 Mechanical licenses or the digital transmission licenses (Synchronization is outside my field, and most likely where any leverage you have would lie) from a strictly impartial, non-advocacy basis, let me know, and I'll send my direct office contact info. I could brag and tell stories about my interactions with the Famous, and Not-so-Famous, but that's not important. Just that you have a resource in the biz, if you care to use it.

Suzie Riddle says

This is kind-of a re-post from my comments on one of the news sites, but I'm hoping you will see this here:
I bet you are experiencing a tangle of feelings. When my ideas have been used without my consent, I have told myself that they thought very very little of me, or thought I was insignificant, and THAT hurt.

Hold your head high. I suggest you approach them like you would a child who forgot to do a chore. Be kind, yet firm. "I see that you have used my arrangement and idea and neglected to get my permission or pay me for that. I expect you will want to correct that." Of course have your lawyers prepare specifically how you would like to be compensated.

Good luck Jonathan. Welcome to the journey of forgiveness. It can be a rough road :( sz

Tyler F says

I just want to say that until this controversy, I didn't know of your version of Baby Got Back. I'm in love with it now.

Yes, this is a very unfortunate position to be in with all of this but I actually see good coming out of this whole thing. People might actually look up your version and then be exposed to your music. While it's not in the best fashion (by not giving you credit), within the next few weeks a WHOLE bunch of people will be introduced to Jonathan Coulton's music.

At least there is some good to come out of this.
Good luck man. Your music is awesome and it will be heard.

Jon Schell says

I work in audio post and use Pro Tools extensively. I've been going over this for a while, and to the question of "Did they actually use any of JoCo's original recording", the answer is probably yes, but scientifically I can't prove it without a CD quality recording of the Glee song.

What I'm almost certain they've stolen is the reverberant hand-clap type sound right after the opening lyrics, "L.A. face with the Oakland booty." If you listen very closely, after each "clap", you hear a tiny little blip in the audio in the Glee version; most easily heard after the first clap. Here's a pic of the waveform to demonstrate what I mean:

http://imgur.com/a/F0HTP#0

I think that blip is there because they could only steal the second clap, and had to loop it twice. They couldn't steal the first clap because there was bleed from the opening lyrics over it. I believe that blip at the end of the clap is a sloppy edit where you can hear the VERY beginning of the instruments kicking in from JoCo's version. If I paste the 2nd clap in the right spot, the "blips" line up where the song would come in.

http://imgur.com/a/F0HTP#1

I attempted to use phase cancellation to determine if any of the backing track is used for certain, but wasn't able to positively say because of the compressed nature of the Glee song. (I ripped it from the youtube video. Lots of mp3-like artifacting which make this kind of test useless.) There's other factors as well, like the EQ-ing and mastering which would interfere with this method.

I was able to determine that it's definitely POSSIBLE that they could steal the backing tracks. Obviously they don't have access to the actual split tracks, but an easy way to extract them is to send to the Left/Right tracks to a mono output and invert the phase on one of the channels. This cancels out everything that's center panned; usually vocals and drums. How well this works is dependent on how the song was mixed. I did a quick test, and for this song, it would work EXTREMELY well.

Here's en example where I removed some of the vocals for part of the song. They completely disappear:

https://soundcloud.com/inasimplerhyme/baby-got-back-example

To be clear, I didn't edit in another part of the song when the vocals disappear. That's the actual part of the song, but with the two channels summed together with one channel that had its phase inverted.

I'm guessing they either did this and used it as a basis to record everything else (which would explain why it syncs up EXACTLY with JoCo's version) or at least they used this method to hear the discrete parts to re-record everything. I tried canceling out the vocals on the Glee version to compare backing tracks, but because of the low audio quality, all I heard was artifacting.

I don't know if that helps or not, but that's my analysis.

I also used this method to try and hear the duck, but I couldn't. I really don't think it's there.

-Jon

Stealthymuse says

You and Greg Laswell should talk. They did the exact same thing with his version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" https://twitter.com/GregLaswell/status/141935566081101824

Pineappleplanet says

So when I first heard this I was frustrated johnathan Colton is talented and I have heared of glee doing this in the past. I sat on the moment with the duck quack and their is a sound in that place on the glee track. I wanna say they muffled the duck quack. It's around 2.40. It's def their. Now as far as covering a cover its gonna be hard word wise because it was a original song before johnathan covered it. So glee will say they took creative liberties. But since it lines up so perfectly and even the music lines up so perfectly I think if Jonathan's team can prove that the duck quack was muffled and the music is his. He will win. But we will have to see between glee and fox they kinda steamroll and so as they please. I hope you win this Jonathan coulton, I have seen you live and your amazing and hilarious and I would def pay to see you again.

Patrick Rose says

Legally, they can probably survive somehow, because lawyers. It's certainly dubious...

As an aside, I can't hear a duck quack.

Suzie Riddle says

If you settle with them, they may ask you to sign something that you won't talk about the settlement. Please think about that carefully. You MIGHT prefer to not be gagged. Consult with your lawyers of course.

RubyValkyrie says

Getting a copy of the background tracks is not hard. I have a copy of them. A couple years ago I donated to Creative Commons and received a thumb drive with the mix tracks for many Jonathan Coultons songs INCLUDING Baby Got Back.

Evil and Ironic if they used the Creative Commons donation gift for this kind of infringement.

Slacks says

The autotune on the Glee version has me convinced that this is, in fact, GLaDOS.

PaddyB says

I heard the track and they clearly say "Johnny C's in trouble, begging for a piece of that bubble."

I smell deliberate copyright infringement. SLAM 'EM, JON!

Paul R. Potts says

John Schell -- that is great work. FWIW, I can confirm your results with the handclaps in Logic. That's pretty damning evidence that they used that source track exactly.

I've spent a little time messing around with Coulton's individual source tracks, listening to them against and the Fox track trying to figure out what they used and didn't use. I have absolutely convinced myself that they used the banjo, mandolin, and guitar.

I have been holding off uploading anything because I'm not sure I can really add to the debate. I also have not been quite able to get any really noticeable phase cancellation against the Fox track with Coulton's source tracks, but that might just not be possible given the tracks have been compressed and uncompressed and mixed and remastered. But I've got something now that seems worthwhile to share. Here is a mix, of a section of the Fox track in the left, and JoCo's 3 stringed instrument source tracks on the right:

http://commonlisp.bandcamp.com/track/bgb-coulton-and-fox

I have applied a narrow EQ to the Fox track to allow the stringed instruments to stand out a bit more clearly. They just sound completely in sync to me for 90% of this. To me this is pretty convincing. However, I will point out that it sounds like there is some alteration to the end of the banjo phrase in the Fox mix - the little 3-chord "walk up." I have faded these 3 chords down a bit in the mix on the right side. It seems like maybe they tweaked these slight, cut-and-pasted or something -- a very slight alteration. This doesn't, though, undermine the case that they used the tracks. The similarity seems just too great for any other explanation.

Further, when I compare Coulton's mixed Karaoke track v. the Fox track, the difference at that point becomes negligible, which leads me to believe what other people have already concluded -- that they used the mixed Karaoke track rather than the individual instrument tracks.

Oh, also, playing around with EQ and comparing against the karaoke track, I also can hear the faint remnant of the "quack," also FWIW. It's very muted, but clearly there.

Paul R. Potts says

Er, "Jon Schell" -- sorry to misspell your name!

Jason says

@StealthyMuse

Glee settled with Greg Laswell. Thus why the tweet has since been removed from his timeline and he hasn't said a word since. To my knowledge at least.

They used his arrangement but they re-recorded it to lower the key for Cory's voice. This is a bit different as they believe they stole his exact recording.

Also with other "ripoffs" Glee did, they did get permission for each arrangement (Nouvelle Vague's Dancing with Myself. Petra Haden's Don't Stop Believing. etc) contrary to popular belief about that.

The Greg Laswell problem is pretty similar though, but quite different at the same time.

Jon Schell says

Paul - no worries about the spelling, and nice work! I had no idea the split tracks were available. Your test makes me think it's very possible they are using those original tracks. Wow.

PJ Eby says

Tell 'em they can use it as long as they do a JoCo week on American Idol... you've definitely got enough songs for the contestants to choose from. ;-)

suthrnboy says

Get the fuck over yourself Jonathon Coulton. You borrowed a song and reworked it into something new, but not entirely so. Glee did the same damn thing. The stink people are raising is pathetically ridiculous and stinky, I must say...

suthrnwoman says

Get over yourself, suthrnboy. Did you even listen to the two versions? The only thing that Jonathan Coulton borrowed is the lyrics. The melody and audio is all his, and Glee's version is so identical, you can play them simultaneously and it sounds like a single song is being played.

Smilodon says

Derivative works are still under copyright. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work

To me this seems similar to Johnny Mercer writing the English lyrics to Autumn Leaves.

Gib Wallis says

I'm not a copyright attorney, but here's my understanding:

1) if you rewrite lyrics or deviate from melodies (think Sinatra, Mariah Carey riffing) to a song under copyright, then your new work is copyrightable for the recording, but the changes to the song are considered "derivative works," meaning they're based on something someone else owns the copyright to.

2) writing a whole new melody and arrangement completely separate from a song is, in itself, copyrightable. Just not with someone else's lyric unless you register that work as a separate work.

If I were you, I'd probably register the melody and track with myself sing "la la la" and then make sure all albums and iTunes and whatever include a credit for the melody, like this is a special arrangement of a medley or mashup.

You'd probably need permission from the original songwriter to create a new derivative work with different copyright/revenue splits.

Fox could look at your credits and determine you didn't write or compose the song and then just pay the statutory feed for selling it and the synch fees and not include you at all if you haven't lined everything up with separate registrations or permissions.

Kevin says

You just KNEW that there were enough serious tech recording NERDS amongst the Seamonkeys (Paul and Jon!) to provide a definitive technical breakdown of how GLEE stole from JoCo. If it quacks like a duck, and sings to Johnny C like Sir-Mix-A-Lot didn't... it was lifted, right?!?

But here's the rub... the only people who are going to get any real money from a lawsuit asking for money are the lawyers on both sides.

Jonathan is getting good pub from this already, he's clearly the "victim" here, so why not parlay this into some sort of guest shot on the show to sing a different song, or if this show is beneath him, a different 20th Century Fox Show? "The Forboding Minstrel" in an episode of American Horror Story... the entertainment at a club when Phil and Claire get a night out on Modern Family.... or dare we dream it, a cameo on The Simpsons? Have "your people" get creative with Fox and settle this with the wit and ingenuity we have come to know and love.

Howard says

I'm with Kevin; any reasonable settlement here should include a JoCo guest slot on Glee. Artie is the nerdiest character, so maybe that's the most natural link-in. I can just see him doing The Future Soon; being wheelchair-bound would make the line "the steel and the circuits would make me whole" take on a new level of poignancy. Maybe the episode starts with Artie wanting to see JoCo at a club

Want You Gone would only take a few lyrical tweaks to remove the Portal specificity and become a creepy-joyous get-lost song in the general category which includes Hit The Road Jack (Ray Charles) and Have A Nice Rest Of Your Life Without Me (Randy Travis). In fact, if JoCo doesn't want to do that, I may try myself. But I could imagine the girls singing that to one of the guys.

Of course, there's a saying that Hollywood treats writers and composers like shit, but then pays them obscene amounts of money to make up for it. So maybe this would be a good time to take the money and run. Assuming there is any money.

Shan says

FYI: It's up for sale in the US iTunes store now.

E says

Just a heads up, the Glee track is officially up on iTunes.

Paul Turnbull says

Available on the Canadian iTunes Store now. First comment there is about it being JoCo's version.

Blackwell Junior says

It's interesting to see how all the Glee-aficinados are trying to bash JoCo because his version was a cover, thus trying to justify Glee covering a cover. However, it seems like they didn't take their time to compare the JoCo and Glee version to see how blatantly identical they are.

Or by trying to justify it by stating that Glee has 'used' some other cover versions before; thus trying to justify something wrong by pointing out that it wasn't the only instance of wrong-doing, which then apparently is a reason why he shouldn't be mad.

Some people's logic really defies me...

By-Tor says

Here's my take. Of course the Glee version is the same as JoCo's version there's no contesting that. They recorded it, are selling it (and presumably soon will broadcast it as part of the show) without asking JoCo or crediting him (short of leaving the line Johnny C's in trouble in). They *might* have used JoCo's actual backing tracks without his permission, although this is still to be definitively proved (but seems likely to me). If this is the case then they definitely infringed his copyright.

Now, the details of JoCo's version itself are a bit less clear. As far as I glean from reading the interwebs and Googling, JoCo's version is more than a mere "cover" but actually is a derivative work as it is substantially different from the original. (It has a whole new melody and arrangement, not to mention style). Now, I'm not sure whether JC asked for permission to make a derivative work from Mixalot as he really should have. I'm sort of guess maybe he didn't since he hasn't come out and said specifically he did. He did say he bought a license to distribute his cover from Harry Fox Agency, although I am guessing maybe this was only a (compulsory) mecahnical license which would give JC right to make a cover which is similar to the original, but not to make a derivative work.

If JC did as I surmise then potentially he breached the terms of that license! Eeek!

Now what is interesting is if Glee are going about things the correct way in order to publish their version and broadcast it in their show, THEY would need to get permission from Mixalot to do a derivative work too (wouldn't they). Assume they have done this, does this then give them the right to steal JC's work (the new melody and arrangement) in order to create their "new" derivative work??? Because there is no doubt they have stolen it, the question is whether they have the right to do so, ie is JC's version essentially "public domain" if he created it out of the terms of a mechnical license, and didn't receive permission to create it from Mixalot (or his publishers)?

That, my friends, is one for the lawyers!!

By-Tor says

In addition to what I posted above, potentially JC might get away with making a derivative work without express permission of the original rights owner, if it is considered "fair use" eg as a parody. Again, that is for the lawyers to decide I think.

Craig says

I think it's pretty obvious that JoCo's cover is a parody. The version on "Best. Concert Ever." should be entered as proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIwsdSs-sng

By-Tor says

Craig, I agree, but it might take a lawyer to stand up in court to get it proven!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work#The_fair_use_defense_in_derivative_work_cases

Ashley says

Shame on Fox and Glee. I concur with comments made from others: FOX should provide a Glee episode on Jonathan Coulton in return, and written by him for bonus points of forgiveness.

Craig says

By-Tor, I figured you did. I was actually looking for an older article about JoCo's cover that specifically referred to the song as a parody, but I couldn't find it (yet).

In the meanwhile, here's something else for the lawyers to chew on:
http://idolator.com/5201877/baby-got-back-how-it-went-from-hailing-big-asses-to-shilling-for-kiddie-sized-fries

Tom says

Interesting that a few hours after this originally broke, Glee producer Ryan Murphy (@MrRPMurphy) had a tweet that said something along the lines of "Some people are too stupid to recognize opportunity", and that tweet is now missing in action. I am kicking myself in my own ass for not taking a screenshot. Anyone else grab it?

Craig says

Tom - there is at least one article on some random entertainment website that has that screenshot. I can't seem to find it now, but I'll be able to dig it up tonight as I read it on my home computer.

Craig says

I just remembered the tweet was from the Glee music producer Alex Anders, to which JoCo responded:
https://twitter.com/jonathancoulton/status/292394729923043328

The tweet from Alex Anders does seem to be missing.

However, there's this:
https://twitter.com/alxanders/status/292797260213915649

Craig says

The screenshot of Alex Anders' tweet is in this article:
http://www.leakynews.com/baby-got-backlash-glee-under-fire-for-plagiarism/

Craig says

The official Glee music site has the song up:
http://www.gleethemusic.com/us/episode/sadie-hawkins

Wikipedia did the right thing and gave JoCo credit for the cover version (you'll have to scroll down):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_in_Glee_%28season_4%29

Tom says

Guess it's easier to find if you look at the right person. My bad.

Craig says

Hey don't worry about it. You realized the tweet had been deleted in the first place.

Alec says

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadie_Hawkins_(Glee)
It is the last song on the list

Jason says

@Craig.. Well Wikipedia is user published so I'm sure somebody edited themselves to say they use JoCo's

Michael A. says

It's on iTnues now too.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/baby-got-back-glee-cast-version/id592420108?i=592420188

Craig says

@Jason: Yep, & I hope the entry remains with credit to JoCo.

Craig says

What I should have said was, "Somebody on Wikipedia....".

Uninvited Ghost says

Just edited it back to giving credit, sourcing this post as reference.

josh says

I feel certain that, given Disney/ABC's long support of aggressive enforcement of copyright, they'll make sure this is fixed. No, really. Why are you laughing? Do I have something on my shirt?

josh says

hurpdurp. FOX. snark stands.

donovan says

Well looks like it is on the home page of Youtube right now. This Kind of theft is happening more and more these days as networks scour youtube for "ideas"........

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yww4BLjReEk

Jenn says

I've been steaming about this since it broke. Can't wait to see what Fox finally does, will they still air the episode tomorrow and further risk negative publicity?

In the meantime, I'll also just add that the Glee version copied another change that JoCo made: the addition of "pretty" in "...and take your pretty picture". The original version from Sir Mix-a-Lot just says "...and take your picture". Just adding more fuel to the rip-off fire.

Jennifer says

I hope that Mr. Coulton gets some kind of credit or money for this. I hope this brings some of the "Gleek" crowd to look into his work, and enjoy some talent! Also, someone posted earlier about the Nouvelle Vague cover of Dancing with Myself. Thanks! I had no idea that the show (legally) borrowed the cover pretty much note for note.

Paul R. Potts says

In which I demonstrate to my own satisfaction, at least, that Fox tried to remove the quack from JoCo's source file: http://geeklikemetoo.blogspot.com/2013/01/about-that-quack.html

Jason says

You know what they say.. Negative publicity is better than no publicity..

I do believe somebody earlier said something along the lines of (regarding if he was to sue them).. The only people who would be making any money in this matter would be the lawyers in both parties.. which is pretty true.

The fact that JoCo is taking this slow is because he is working out his options and being smart about this.

They are gonna air the episode, I have no doubt about that; 98% sure they will air the song too.

I can't wait to see the viewer #s of this episode it's either gonna sink, or be sky high. The amount of publicity this has gotten will probably make people more curious than not.

As a Glee and JoCo fan, I'll still watch it.. Boycotting it isn't going to do anything unless millions of people all boycot.. Which just isn't going to happen. The only people who aren't gonna watch this episode are people who don't watch show in the first place.

Steve says

This whole JoControversty and the resulting publicity (specifically Andrew Sullivan's blog) just reminded me how much I dig Jonny C. I don't have Artificial Heart, so I'll probably go ahead and get that. (:O)

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Grace says

'Gleeks' do not deserve to listen to anything inspired by this genius. And the genius himself must not be forced to listen to a bunch of auto-tuned 20-somethings defecate on his work.
My advice: get your lawyers to settle for you as much money as they can, and use that money to donate to organizations that properly protect artists like yourself.

Brett Glass says

...and, I might add, it would probably be a good idea for those organizations to be ones OTHER than EFF. EFF has never once stood up for any copyright holder's rights, and in fact has campaigned against them. EFF gets money from Google to lobby for it. Also, several EFF Board members are paid directly or indirectly by Google, which is the world's biggest copyright scofflaw. EFF, like many "astroturf" organizations, pretends to be a populist organization but in fact is a corporate lobbying group.

Cliff says

Well, its officially in there... quack and all...

Tim L says

The episode of Glee is playing right now, and the song JUST finished. So yes. THAT HAPPENED.

Nick says

Just saw it and WOW. Total shock. What little respect I had for this show just went out the window.

Frances says

Well...that was actually more awful that I thought it would be. At least the "Jonny C" line was cut (the interwebs had reported was part of the clever Glee version). If nothing else, this kerfuffle may have cured my teenage daughters from watching Glee.

Jason says

That version was totally different than the version posted online. Well not totally.. The voice was completely different though Aussie (I think?) accent and voice tone was different also.

Jason says

Stand corrected... English accent -_- lol

Jeff says

Yep, it was definitely aired. Go get 'em JoCo (JoCo lawyer)!

Brian says

Just heard it my parents watching it from downstairs. And wow this isn't really the news I was expecting to see. I was assuming you had a say in this, and was already here posting how cool glee was for doing it, but wow I was not expecting Glee to be this terrible. Good luck man! Give em hell!

Kristin Henderson says

Truly vile. I can't believe they have the cajones not only to air your arrangement, but to be currently SELLING it (as if it's theirs to sell) on iTunes. Ugh. Sickening.

Ms Burrows says

Yeah, I just check iTunes before coming here. I thought surely they wouldn't stoop so low. No idea why I thought that. I should know better.

Kristie says

Glee was my guilty pleasure and I watched it since it first aired. In short, I am (actually WAS) a Gleek. In light of this story, I am now officially done. I'm sorry they did this to you. I love your music.

Marc says

Just watched it. Your version, their show. ...and you received no notification? Unbelievable...

Chooch Schubert says

I half thought this was a clever rouse and JoCo would be in the background playing mandolin.

Will be interesting to hear the whole story.

RoraBorealis says

I watched tonight to find out if they'd do it. I wondered if they'd pull it, but sure enough, there it was.

If there's anything we fans can do, let us know. I've been spreading the word on what's happening.

Tom says

Anyone record the show and can provide a list of sponsors? Not suggesting a boycott, which almost never works. But we surely couldn't go wrong with a few timely, poliite letters (inlcuding the URL to the side-by-side) letting advertisers know that by supporting Glee they are supporting theft.

SSteve says

I had two friends on Facebook (real friends, not Facebook friends) post that they thought this was the best thing Glee has done in a while. I was happy to be able to inform them why it was so good.

A.P.T. says

Hey Jonathan:

4 years ago when I was living in Atlanta I caught wind of your song-a-week idea, and started my own "One Music-Video-a-Week" thing for a year. Because of it, I also ended up having my 5th song - a parody of Lil' Wayne's "A Milli" about Barack Obama - become uber-popular. So popular, in fact, that rap artist Tyga ended up stealing it and going on tour with it. I say that to say, when I saw Glee tonight and heard them doing the exact same version of Baby Got Back that you did all those years ago, I was (a) pissed, and (b) thinking about how pissed off you probably are, especially if you don't end up getting royalties from it. The fact that so many people on here caught wind of it means Fox should know that the origins of something that original were going to want to be found out. It's amazing just how often this happens in Hollywood - fight for your rights, maaaan!

Chloe says

OK, so I think we officially found out that both " pretty picture" and " Johnny c's in trouble" were Jonathon coulton's intellectual property, both parts were mysteriously missing from tonight's performance. They may have actually rerecorded the whole thing, I'm not sure about anyone else but the backing music just felt a little....off.

Chloe says

Actually, further on that, apparently they often cut songs for time reasons.

Craig says

It's up on GleeOnFox's YouTube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMmBPF0vljM

Ugh.

Tim says

And it was on last night, and DEFINITELY YOUR TRACK!

As a copyright attorney it's a very very interesting issue!

Andy says

I just posted a link to your tweet on my FB page, but then I started wondering whether or not I was supposed to mention it was yours or just imply it was my own...

Ravencroft says

All my rage on the latest update. Something needs to be done.

Neverhart says

Does this mean that anyone could do an album of note-for-note Glee covers with no attribution, as long as we pay the mechanicals to the original publisher?

TheRidGE says

So as a thought from someone who is not a lawyer at all, but remembers his school lessons on how the government works, congress writes laws, the president signs them into law, then, if there is any question about the validity of a law, it gets brought in court for the judiciary branch to determine. I feel that this law has stood for ages as written by congress without being brought to court.

I also feel that if there were any time this should be brought to court, this is a good time. Internet musicians seem to be walked all over by big business, and their rights stripped from them. America as a whole is trying to figure out how rights should work on the internet, while the same big businesses are trying to gain complete control over it.

While others have had issues with big business, I feel that you are the first who is in a strong position to hold your ground. I feel that you have the two biggest things needed for the underdog to fight back against big business; A better financial position, and an already sizable army of loyal fans, ready to fight for you. With the obvious similarities between the two songs, and the way this has so far unfolded, this is the best case where, if people who had never heard either song before heard it, they would probably side with you. People would feel that the law should cover you, and you should win in court.

I also know that kickstarter does not allow the collection of money for legal fees, but I'm going to go out on a limb, and say that if you decided to go forward with this, and attempt to sue for your fair share, and to give internet musicians better rights from theft in the future, I am fairly sure that every one of your fans would be behind you, and would live to use the paypal link on your site to donate for legal fees. Also, if you get this reported on internet news sites, you may get even more people willing to donate who would have never heard of you before, but still believe in your cause.

I feel that America in general hates big business, and you, right here, right now, might be the best person America can get behind to at least fight for the rights of internet musicians in regards to the behavior of big business and internet robbery. Everyone agrees that big business needs to learn to back off, and you could make the difference for the future (which will not always be this way). I implore you not to back off, and I will even admit, I want to see this in court. Maybe you shouldn't listen to me 100%, but at least understand where I am coming from, and understand that your fans are here. We will fight for you. And we want you to win. (And I want FOX to lose. Bad.)

Duznot says

If they obtained your music via Creative Commons and used it for their own gains, this doesn't bode well for CC. Why would any artist offer their music to CC if corporations can freely use it without being required to pay, credit, or even notify the artist? Why would anyone donate to CC if they know this sort of thing happens?

Meanwhile, I wonder now if Fox even bothered to contact Mix-A-Lot's label.

Vik says

I wish there was something I could do!

Derek Berner says

I want to see a public apology from FOX, but Glee employees are hard at work redacting every last bit of JoCo-related activity on their Facebook page, their IMDb page, their wiki, and so on. Really telling.

In any case I thought I could kick a couple bucks your way to show my support (since you probably won't see a dime from FOX), so I just picked up your complete box set online. It's the least I could do. Loved your Nashville show and I hope you come back soon!

Ms Burrows says

That's just awful. So you are actually supposed to be grateful to them for taking your work and giving no credit for it. The only people who will know it's yours are the people who are already your fans.

Caleb says

IANAL, but I don't understand why the following logic doesn't work (regardless of the source track issue):

- The original had no melody.
- JoCo's cover had a melody.
- Therefore, JoCo composed the melody.

- Melodies are protected by copyright.
- Therefore, JoCo's melody is protected by copyright.[*]

- "They" obviously used JoCo's melody without permission.
- Therefore, they have infringed JoCo's copyright.

[*] Side notes:
- As usual, copyright is automatic upon creation, and not dependent on registering.
- AFAIK, JoCo didn't technically list this one as CC (as its a cover), so that's a non-issue.

How is this not the case? Where is the flaw in the logic (aside from the naive assumption that IP laws are actually based on logic)?

ZSandmann says

As soon as the song started I looked at my wife and said, this is JoCo's they stole it! It is absolutely extactly your cover.

Michael says

As others have pointed out, while covers of covers should not be a copyright violation, your work is NOT simply a cover. It's a reworking of lyrics to an entirely new melody, arrangement, and rhythm. Every aspect other than the words have been changed.

Fox is trying to intimidate you and your lawyer out of taking further action because they have the money and power to do so. Please don't let them get away with this.

Brian says

Maybe just a little burning things down? For science?

feelyat says

I don't know if they used your audio, other than as a backing track to record vocals. Then they played over it. The instrumentation seems different. At least it's different enough that I wouldn't put too much stock into making that your attack vector.

I do feel, though, that your version of BGB was not a cover -- it was a parody, therefore a derivative work, and completely copyrighted, at least the original parts of it. In contrast to most Wierd Al-style parodies, you're changing the music, not the lyrics, but the overall work still effects a commentary on the original piece, rather than just parroting it.

Either way, what Glee did was to copy your work, and now they're selling it as their own. Seems pretty straightforward to me. If the law says differently then the law needs to get a slushie to the face.

Scott says

Man, you were robbed by the crooks at Glee. As a professional arranger/composer, I'm horrified to think this can happen. YOU are brilliant. Keep it up. Sue them if you can.

Malkah says

They are bullies. They have done this before to Petra Haden, Greg Laswell, and presumably others. Yours is a different case, though, because you composed a new work and they also used your audio. Isolate that duck quack. What a needless and easily avoided mess they created. Jerks!

Emily says

The upside to all of this is that I now know who Coulton is. I didn't before, and no offense, but I'm sure there are lots of others who didn't either. This gives me incentive to check out his other works. Silver lining and all of that.

g says

i hate you stop it and get over damn jonathan please go and kill your self

Bob says

You "should be happy for the exposure". What a bunch of arrogant assholes.

I strongly suspect that the Glee people aren't going to be particularly happy with the exposure *they're* getting.

And with all due respect to JoCo, I disagree... let's burn this mutherfucka down!

Ashley says

I'm the excited girl from your Tulsa concert! I just wanted you to know that your fans support you 100% and we will intelligently occupy Glee's time to bring awareness to the Great Jonathan Coulton.

phebe says

I don't mean to be rude I get both sides of the argument it does sound very very much like Jonathan Coulton's version but i do get that gleeks are giving him credit on their sites not everybody in the glee world looks at all that stuff. Fans have already dedicated pages and stuff to the original artists. You can't just stop watching glee because of the people who made it! What about the actors who don't have a say in it, at least keep watching for them. I saw it on one of the glee wiki pages (fan based of course) and looked JC's one up its really good and i showed my friends. Movies and tv shows and artist do it now so much nowdays. But i still think JC should get an apology and some more credit.

feelyat says

@Malkah,

Petra Haden and Greg Laswell (and Nouvelle Vague) were all victims of the Glee model of innovation -- find someone who has used their artistic talents to reimagine a well-known song, hopefully someone small-time, who nobody has heard of, then copy their work, note for note, and give no credit or acknowledgment to the artist. In the case of PH, GL and NV, though, the chord structure didn't change (or didn't change much) from the original. In JoCo's case, he wrote a completely new song, using mix-a-lot's lyric.

Honestly, the worst thing about this is that the version of the song in the show was terrible. It completely lacks the humor inherent in JoCo's delivery. Maybe it's because it's done as a big, showstopping dance number. That plus the autotune kind of takes away from the image I have in this song of a guy just laying out his feelings about his love for big butts.

Josh says

It would be alright if Jon did a cover with the same arrangement as the original. But he wrote his own arrangement, beats and phrasing. He even changed a few lyrics which remained in the song; "Johnny C" is a reference to himself, which they just didn't change. It's really stupid.

katie says

Sounds exactly like a site that scrapes blog posts and publishes them as their own. They say they're allowed to and that you should be glad to get the exposure.... so many jerks out there.

icouldbeahacker says

Phebe, I didn't stop watching Glee over this. I stopped watching because it's now completely unwatchable. It has been for a while. At first it had music, dialog, plot, and quirkiness. Soon it was left with nothing but music, and they can't even create that anymore. They even made a mess of a Grease episode. How in the hell can you screw that up?

Adam S. says

Good luck, Jonathan, I used to be a fan of Glee til it went to the shits during last season, and now this is just the icing on the cake. I hope it all works out for you.

Mattface says

If there is any good to come of this it will be from JoCo getting more exposure, and hopefully selling a few more songs. Additionally, I'd like to the producers of Glee live to regret their pattern of taking other people's ideas, and not crediting them, especially since the show supposedly celebrates creativity, while simultaneously ripping off the actually creative people.

Now this song which is an obvious blatant ripoff, is being sold alongside the original in the iTunes store. I doubt it will do anything in the way of retribution, but wouldn't it be nice if the original saw a little sales bump? So I'm going to suggest that anyone who is pissed off by this situation channel 99¢ worth of your support into buying the original from the iTunes store. It can be our way of saying we value originality. Let's try to make sure the Joco version outsells the Glee version. By all rights it should, purely on their own merits the original non autotuned version is clearly better.

Frank says

I almost wish I watched Glee now, so that I could stop watching it.

Kristine says

Ya know, Glee was only good the first season. It has only gotten progressively worse since. Maybe it's best to not get credit. Who wants to be associated with such a horribly crap show?

Julia says

I remember my first JoCo show in 2005 in a small bar in Chicago and then watched the venues get bigger and bigger and loved that more people were recognizing his amazing talent. My husband's and my wedding dance was his cover of "I Will". I've been making a point to mention his name and site if I relink things on Facebook or discuss this situation with people to ensure that even if Fox doesn't have an ounce of integrity, JoCo gets as much credit as possible from us :) Keep on rocking Mr. Coulton!

Remolay says

At least they didn't autotune the hell out of it.

But yeah, this is an outrage and can't be legal.

But no, it's not autotuned. I've found that Glee is actually gradually moving away from its dependence on autotune and actually show off the cast's voices.

But seriously, They could have made their own arrangement. Not completely ripoff the Joco version to the point where the only difference you can hear is the voice and no quack.

Tom says

Guys, I came up with this great idea for a TV show. It centers around several dozen teenagers, 97% of whom are gay (NTTAWWT) and/or social outcasts. They work through their pain and awkwardness by singing terrible autotuned covers of songs that people actually like. I call it Glee! What do you think? I bet Fox would love it. No one steal this idea; it's all mine and I came up with it all by myself.

Reesa says

In effort to not burn anything, but also to do something, I did this: https://www.change.org/petitions/fox-media-and-glee-stop-using-the-work-of-artists-without-crediting-them?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=url_share&utm_campaign=url_share_after_sign#

Hope you guys will sign and pass it on. Fox *has* to stop this!

Alex says

I struggle to understand how Glee thinks they licensed this ARRANGEMENT, which is clearly not a COVER.

ericdano says

So wait, if say my band did a broadcast performance of say Metallica's Enter Sandman, and basically didn't change anything at all, I wouldn't have to PAY anything? I just merely, after the fact, send them a "yeah, I used it. And you should be thankful" letter?

This is totally WRONG. Are Glee and Fox too big to go after? There is no way in hell that if someone else covered a song by say Maroon 5 on TV and they didn't ask for permission to perform it or pay for it, they would get away scot-free.

If anything, Jonathan should SUE them just because. On principle. Because it is the RIGHT thing to do for Artists who are getting ripped off. And Jonathan did get ripped off here. Totally.

ericdano says

I think ASCAP needs to be involved.

http://www.ascap.com/licensing/licensingfaq.aspx

Emily says

I won't burn anything down. I'm just sad.

grayson says

well then the actors should have stepped up and said, this is wrong.

Frank says

Here's hoping Glee goes off the air soon.

atypicaloracle says

They left in the change from "Sir Mix-A-Lot" to "Johnny C." Seriously, it's in there.

Not only did they mooch this arrangement wholesale, they didn't even bother to change the freaking lyrics.

Glee, you are stupidity ascendant.

Mike says

I might burn something, Jonathan. Here's hoping this gets settled properly, before I have to.

Trish B. says

I hope you know a lawyer who can give you some advice without breaking the bank. Just give the word when you want us to start writing letters, or whatever we can do to help out!

John Green says

If musicians, like the Foo Fighters, are able to not license their songs for Fox to use on Glee, then Fox must have to get permission for any songs they use. If they didn't get permission to this song from JC, did they get permission from Sir-Mix-A-Lot and/or his reps/lawyers?

If not, shouldn't Sir-Mix-A-Lot also be upset that Fox used the song without permission?

Dhomal says

@ Reesa - I signed, and tweeted out a link

Richard says

So... I guess this means that I have a very good reason to boycott Fox and fox shows (and those who advertise on their network.)

Stef Chase says

I work with some trademark/copyright attorneys and I just emailed them to ask if there's anything that can be done about this. If there is, I can let you know (if you want)

state shirt says

Aren't derivative works copyrightable if they are different enough than the underlying work? In this case, Jonathan's arrangement is essentially a brand new song utilizing Mix-A-Lot's lyrics. Seems crazy to think that Jonathan has no copyright claim.

Microwavedboy says

If anyone had any doubt...
Youtube Doubler starting at time 0 for both JoCo's original and the Glee "version"

http://www.youtubedoubler.com/?video1=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DMCWaN_Tc5wo&start1=0&video2=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DYww4BLjReEk&start2=0&authorName=microwavedboy

Jason says

I have watched Glee since the beginning, and I was actually the Project Manager for the first 2 phases of 2011's Glee Give a Note project. As soon as I heard the LA face with an Oakland booty - I stopped the show and came to check if it was JoCo's licensed. It seems to not be. While I don't understand or care to understand the legal issues, I know that JoCo had this awesome idea first. While it is not going to make me stop watching Glee, I do wish that they would have at least made a mention or credit to JoCo. I found the youtube videos about 6 months ago from a mention in a web comic (i think it was leasticoulddo.com) and I listen to them a lot. Mr. Fancy Pants is one of the other ones that I really enjoy, aside from Baby got Back.

Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) says

If your peeps have it in writing from them, or have a recording of them saying, that their compensation for using your arrangement is "exposure"? If you don't have a lawyer on this, get one; if you have one, he or she has to be cackling with mad anticipation. Because that's a confession that they did use your arrangement, and the rest of the sentence is irrelevant. If you have that confession recorded in any way, you are guaranteed some kind of a settlement including legal fees; there is no plausible way they can get out of it.

Sally Moore says

Thanks, Mattface for the inspiration. I just bought JoCo's version off of ITunes as a show of support. Already had a free version from a while back. Just want to say thanks to our Artist!!!

Cat says

Hi all.

I'm not actually sure what the rules are in the States, because I don't live there, but I know that it's not illegal to do that here.
I think it actually is illegal not to credit the original artist of the song i.e. If someone did a cover of Michael Buble's cover of a Frank Sinatra song, they would have to state the original artist as Frank Sinatra and if they chose to add Michael Buble, that would be their choice. This is probably the reason that Sir Mix-a-Lot is cited on the wiki, or whatever. Like I said, I'm not entirely sure. I only worked very briefly with copyright laws, etc.

It is important to remember that personal and business ethics are not the same thing, as unfortunate as that may be. The reason they "get away with it" is because they haven't done anything that can actually be considered professionally unethical.

Yes, it sucks. I totally agree that people should be credited for all their work. But nobody screams blue murder when actors work in uncredited roles, etc. so let's try not to over react. I think we should listen to JoCo and just chillax a little bit. Fox won't apologise if what they have done is not deemed unethical or unlawful, and that is completely within their rights. However, if they are not found to be responsible and JoCo fans have hated on Glee excessively to the point that it can be seen as libel, there could be some seriously messed up consequences. So keep calm, peeps and let's just see how this situation unfolds.

Good luck, Mr Coulter

Cat says

Hi all.

I'm not actually sure what the rules are in the States, because I don't live there, but I know that it's not illegal to do that here.
I think it actually is illegal not to credit the original artist of the song i.e. If someone did a cover of Michael Buble's cover of a Frank Sinatra song, they would have to state the original artist as Frank Sinatra and if they chose to add Michael Buble, that would be their choice. This is probably the reason that Sir Mix-a-Lot is cited on the wiki, or whatever. Like I said, I'm not entirely sure. I only worked very briefly with copyright laws, etc.

It is important to remember that personal and business ethics are not the same thing, as unfortunate as that may be. The reason they "get away with it" is because they haven't done anything that can actually be considered professionally unethical.

Yes, it sucks. I totally agree that people should be credited for all their work. But nobody screams blue murder when actors work in uncredited roles, etc. so let's try not to over react. I think we should listen to JoCo and just chillax a little bit. Fox won't apologise if what they have done is not deemed unethical or unlawful, and that is completely within their rights. However, if they are not found to be responsible and JoCo fans have hated on Glee excessively to the point that it can be seen as libel, there could be some seriously messed up consequences. So keep calm, peeps and let's just see how this situation unfolds.

Good luck, Mr Coulton

Reldan says

I think the copyright issue is that Jon's license for Baby Got Back was simply a mechanical one and thus doesn't cover his version of the song as a distinct derivative of the original, leaving Glee to also just need to license the original song.

However, it seems like if the JoCo song were being sold as a parody of the original, it would be covered as his unique expression and thus the mechanical license would just have been a formality. Not sure if that's a case that would stand up, but it could be one tact.

This is probably most similar to Weird Al's "Bohemian Polka" version of Bohemian Rhapsody in which the lyrics were left alone but the arrangement is clearly different, except that Weird Al always gets a direct license from the original artist, even though his work is pretty easily understood to be parody and thus is his copyright anyways.

Tom says

Ummm... I would think/hope that JC copyrighted his original work on the piece with out the baby got back lyrics, cause I'm pretty sure at that point he could sue the crap out of Fox. The only thing that's the same between Mixalot's and Coulton's are the words. I hope he sues them, Fox and their lawyers are morons if they think a 'music work' is purely bound & composed by "words".

Frank says

Cat: I'm not all that familiar with the way casting works, but if an actor appears in an uncredited role, don't they still have to show up for shooting and agree to be in the show or movie or whatever? Or are you talking about someone taking footage that someone filmed elsewhere and making it part of their movie / TV show? I guess my point is, an actor in an uncredited role still has to agree to do it, right? If so, then that's irrelevant to the JC/Glee situation.

Josh says

The only real recourse I can see? It's time for the Jonathan Coulton Cover of the Glee Cover of the Jonathan Coulton Cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby's Got Back. By Jonathan Coulton.

Cat says

Also, Glee is not selling it "as their own"... Glee does very few original tracks (I thinl they really only did a few in season 2, but I'm not like their biggest fan so I could be wrong)... They aren't advertising it as "their own"... The song is performed by who they say it is, so selling it on iTunes is not illegal. I think we're all getting way too distracted here. We need to focus on what they actually did that is wrong, and that's not being helped by people insulting the Glee artists, etc.

Jeff says

BURN IT DOWN

Reldan says

Cat, I think you're confusing the concepts of ethical and legal. Not everything that is legal is ethical, and I think this is a perfect example of something that may not have been illegal for Glee to have done but certainly was not ethical.

They "get away with it" because it may not be illegal, but the backlash is because this is pretty blatantly not ethical.

Cory says

Screw using lawyers. Write a song about this shit. Here's some inspiration from back in the day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BijChf8ROJU

Jennifer says

I noticed (from blog articles on this, not from watching the actual episode) that they amended the aired version of the song to omit the 'Johnny C' line.

http://whateverblog.dallasnews.com/2013/01/glee-shamelessly-and-unapologetically-stole-its-baby-got-back-cover-heres-the-original.html/

Cat says

Frank, that is a good point and I agree with that too... I just mean that if people are jumping on the "all work should be credited" wagon, then they should consider all the angles... But you're right. I hadn't thought of that

Matt says

Glee got permission from Sir Mix A Lot to do a cover of the "Baby Got Back" - which gives them the rights for the lyrics and Sir Mix A Lot's tune, but I don't understand how they can use Jonathan's totally original melody without his permission. If Jonathan's track had been an instrumental track with no lyrics to it (and thus not tied to Sir Mix A Lot in anyway), then it would be clear cut the Glee stole his original composition and put Sir Mix A Lot's lyrics on it. But since Johnathon already did the mash-up of his original melody and Sir Mix A Lot's lyrics, they can just take it?

Plus they used Jonathan's lyrical changes (changing "And take your picture" to "And take your pretty picture" and "Mix-a-Lot's in trouble" to "Johnny C's in trouble"). Doesn't he have any rights to his creation?

I don't understand how he doesn't have a copyright claim against them.

Rory Triskaideka says

I agree with above commenters that the musical arrangement would be copyrighted. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Glee used your musical arrangement, therefore they owe you not only some sort of credit, but friggin' royalties. Lawyer up and sue the producers. Someone needs to stand up to them.

Krud says

Glee used Sir Mix-A-Lot's words. They got permission from him (presumably) to do so.

They did not use his tune. They used a tune written, arranged, composed, and (I would say) performed by Jonathan Coulton. (I swear the quack is still in there.)

They did not get his permission to do so.

At the very least, doesn't that make Glee's "Copyright (c)2013 Fox" (or whatever they post on iTunes) just as "invalid" as any claim JoCo tries to make? If he can't claim copyright, how can they?

Cat says

Reldan,

I understand the terms perfectly, thank you. Please do not treat me like an idiot. As I said in a previous post, business ethics, which is a field I have a lot of experience in, is not the same as personal ethics. If they are not obligated to notify Mr Coulton, then it is not unethical of them not to do so. As JoCo himself has said, he is still looking into whether or not what they did is actually wrong in terms of professionalism, etc. I think that on a personal level, it is immoral not to acknowledge the work. However, as a business, they are not confined to the codes of personal ethics. Which in short, sucks. This is why business ethics is such a touchy subject, but one that I do, in fact, understand.

I live in a fairly conservative country where laws are based on religious ethos, and even here, it is not considered unethical according to our codes of business and performing ethics.

Krud says

Also, if they DIDN'T outright rip off his actual studio recordings, down to the very banjo pluck? Then why in the world would they have gone out of their way to replicate it themselves verbatim? Why would they choose the same key, the same tempo, the same timbre, the same instrumentation, the same everything? If they can be that meticulous, then I would think it would be a walk in the park for them to "make it their own" enough to have come up with something themselves. The precision is even greater than that of Weird Al's sound-a-likes, and he's deliberately trying to sound like the rendition in question. And even HE tweaks it slightly, despite having gotten permission.

I think Glee was lazy and completely stole his backing track, and I'm fairly certain there's no legal precedent allowing for that.

GET-A-LIFE says

GET A LIFEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Krud says

Thanks, but what'd be the point of following your advice, if it means I can't define people's life's work, otherwise what chance do I have with my own?

Krud says

(Hah. Meant to type "defend.")

DJ Particle says

Here's the thing... What you did with "Baby Got Back" is a parody, done in the reverse of how a parody is usually written.

Most people take the original arrangement of a song, and write new lyrics to use with the arrangement, however, the new lyrics usually have no relation to the original lyrics other than they are designed to use the same arrangement.

What you did is take the original lyrics to a song, and write a new melody to use with the lyrics, however, the new melody has no relation to the original melody other than they were designed to use the same lyrics.

By Fox's argument, Weird Al would have no rights if someone got the rights to cover "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys and ends up singing the lyrics from "eBay".

Think you might have a case with that argument?

Vic says

This is all completely mental! I really hope it comes to a satisfactory conclusion!

It's so hard to understand. If the Joco song had been that tune with different lyrics would that not be covered by copyright? Or a tune with *no* words? And if the words are the important thing, is the "Johnny C" line copyrighted? Bah!!

Andy says

Looks like the Glee Facebook moderators have given up on trying to censor everyone who's lambasting them for their treatment of JoCo. Have they finally picked the wrong artist to steal from?

Andrew says

(Standard disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer!)

There are two works associated with a piece of music: the "musical work", which is what you might see expressed as sheet music, and the "phonographic work", which is what is recorded as an audio file. The U.S. allows for a "compulsory license" which allows an artist to create a derivative phonographic work from any published written musical work, for a fixed per-copy fee.

The solution to this issue has a lot to do with how Baby Got Back was licensed by JoCo from Sir Mix-a-lot. If he relied on a standard compulsory license, as defined in 17 USC § 115 (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/115), he's not only out of luck pursuing legal action, but his cover may actually be illegal (as much as it pains me to say it!). Note 17 USC § 115(a)(2):

> A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style... of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.

(Here, "the arrangement" refers to the *slightly different* musical written work that logically corresponds to th enew phonographic work. In this case, "the arrangement" includes JoCo's original melody, idea of putting in a quack noise, and added lyrics.)

The last couple of lines in there are the particularly troubling ones. Let's start with the ending: "the arrangement... shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner." So, even if the new arrangement is, logically and legally speaking, a derivative work, the U.S. legal code makes a *special exception* and says that the musical written work of musical covers receive none of the copyright protections associated with normal derivative works. If my reading is correct, JoCo's cover can only enjoy copyright protection with the consent of Sir Mix-a-lot.

The second component is also worrying: "the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work...", which suggests that JoCo's cover is not eligible for a compulsory license at all, in that it almost certainly changes the "fundamental character of the work".

HOWEVER, all of this depends on what Sir Mix-a-lot (or his label) agreed to. If JoCo did *not* rely on a standard compulsory license, and obtained a different license, then virtually of this discussion is moot.

Sarah says

Sorry to hear that you're going through this, but you absolutely have a case.

To me, Glee represents what Hollywood has become in a nutshell: an absence of creativity. Be it due to time crunch or lack of actual creative minds on their team - but the whole concept of Glee is rearranging famous artists' songs and usually in a way that's easy and accessible to their fans. And by extension of that, they think by the power invested in the Network, they can just take peoples' original twists on songs and use them without credit. AKA - the Hollywood formula of trying to appear creative on a budget by using other peoples' work.

Use your work without credit? Sue them with credit.

Andrew says

Oh, I forgot to mention: if FOX copied from JoCo's actual phonographic work (that is, they literally, digitally copied the backing instrumental track from an MP3 or FLAC file) to get the background accompaniment, then he has a MUCH stronger case.

Also, none of this changes that what FOX did is incredibly stupid, rude and disrespectful -- it just might not be technically illegal.

J. Walker says

No, folks: JoCo's cover of "Baby Got Back" is *not* a parody. A parody would be a derivative work -- which is to say, an adaptation of an original piece. That would require quite a different license than the compulsory license, which does not cover derivative works.

Glee wouldn't be able to use Weird Al's "eBay" without his permission, because Al a) licenses the songs he parodies for derivative works, and b) gets copyright protection on the new lyrics and arrangement that he records and releases. JoCo didn't do that with "Baby Got Back," which is how this happened.

What Glee did -- assuming they didn't, in fact, use his audio -- was completely legal. Awful, shady, and unethical...but legal.

Cat says

May I just point out that Glee uses their own instrumentalists. It may be possible that they purchased the sheet music, or even the backtrack, and were then entitled to perform it.

Like I have said, and as JoCo himself has said, it is not yet clear what they did. Although we all agree that this is clearly his version, and Fox has not denied the claim (although they haven't admitted it aither), the matter is still being investigated, and I think it is wrong to assume that they're frauds when the matter hasn't even been investigated fully yet.

Personally, I think JoCo should get some credit for this, absolutely. All I'm saying is that Fox might not be obliged to give him any. And yes that sucks, but we can't hold Fox responsible for the codes of business ethics.

Anon-C says

Hmm BTW throwing this out there and if someone already mention this sorry (I don't have the time to read through all comments), but listen to around 2:16 in the Glee track. When you do you'll know what I'm talking about.

Originally I got the idea from https://soundcloud.com/suudo/joco-vs-glee-baby-got-back, but I went to confirm on the actual track in the youtube video, its there.

Finally if no ones knows what I'm talking about, "Johnny C. is in trouble." So they definitely they actually copied your own lyrical additions as well.

Cat says

Anyway, I'm out now. Just thought I'd say my piece. I really hope that this is resolved in the best way possible for all parties.

Claire says

I don't buy the idea that you have no case. The arrangement is transformative as heck. Definitely talk to several copyright/fair use/parody experts.

Joe says

As a typically unbiased music lover, I find myself at the far end of this dilemma. While FOX may possess legal rights to a variety of phonographic and lyrical resources, they could have easily picked from a plethora of other songs from *consenting* artists... Better yet, they could have exerted some effort and written an original song, thus sparing JoCo and his fans from the task of sifting through this avalanche of legal feces. Either option would have most likely yielded just as much profit from their usual viewership.

The point is, Glee might not have ventured outside the parameters of the law, but they still had no ethically sound reason to do what they did, especially if they are refusing to provide any kind of credit or monetary compensation.

Zack says

When you perform it live, please say "this is a cover of a song from Glee."

It will be hilarious.

Krud says

The question I would like for them to answer, which I know they will never answer because they clearly have no interest in answering legitimate questions, is this: if they didn't want to credit him, or have anything to do with him, why would they go through the painstaking process (and has someone who has done this, I know it is painstaking) of sitting down and examining every nuance of his performance, the instruments used, how to recreate each and every sound, and then doing so until it's nigh-indistinguishable from the source material in question? Why would they go to such lengths to deliberately set themselves up for that level of widespread suspicion? To me Occam's Razor says they were lazy and used his track as a base, at a minimum. They may have remixed it and added their own tiny touches to it, but it is overall unaltered.

Keith T says

"...[T]he right to claim a copyright in a non-infringing derivative work arises by operation of law and not through authority from the copyright owner of the underlying work. Under operation of law—in this case, copyright law—the creator of a work of art is the owner of the copyright in that creation."

http://artlawteam.com/photography-copyright-and-derivative-works/

"-The only originality required for a new work to be copyrightable is enough expressive variation from public-domain or other existing works to enable the new work to be readily distinguished from its predecessors. This standard does not require a high degree of incremental originality."

"-Copyright in a derivative work is thin, extending only to the incremental original expression contributed by the author of the derivative work."

http://www.lawschoolcasebriefs.net/2012/05/schrock-v-learning-curve-case-brief-586.html

This is very significant here. Original additions or changes to an existing work in the derivative work ARE copyrighted. Not just the recording thereof but the actual original elements. In this case, there are TWO original elements to JoCo's cover -- 1. the backing music and 2. the melody to which the lyrics (the only substantially unoriginal part) are sung. Glee infringed on both of these things *regardless* of whether or not they reproduced JoCo's recording to do so.

IANAL but it ain't that hard to read legal decisions and then apply them to other scenarios. And that is, after all, all that a legal argument is.

Keith T says

17 U.S.C. § 101 - A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/101

17 USC § 103 - (a) The subject matter of copyright as specified by section 102 includes compilations and derivative works, but protection for a work employing preexisting material in which copyright subsists does not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully. (b) The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material. The copyright in such work is independent of, and does not affect or enlarge the scope, duration, ownership, or subsistence of, any copyright protection in the preexisting material.

JoCo has copyright over that melody and that backing music which were his own and which they used without his permission.

Please let there be a copyright lawyer out there who will take this case on a percentage of award basis.

Anne says

I can't say anything that hasn't already been said. I'm commenting because I feel a need to show my support for you in this situation. A show with an anti-bullying message- about underdogs TRIUMPHING over adversity- shamelessly stole your work without credit or acknowledgement for no other reason but "Because we could. Because we're bigger than you. Because we're corporate and your indie. Be grateful for the scraps you may or may not get as a result." If they had followed it up by pushing you down on the sidewalk and stealing your lunch money, I wouldn't have been surprised given their abhorrent behavior. Again, it's all been said already but this just sickens me as an independent artist myself. I'm a huge fan of your work and you did not deserve to be treated so callously. I am rooting for you, Jonathan. I support your work and at the very least, your fan community is exposing something inherently broken about the way hollywood/the entertainment industry works today. We will not be silenced and you're clearly a winner in our book. :)

Tim says

I *am* a lawyer. I do copyright litigation. If they used the audio track, which it sure sounds like to me, Jonny C would be entitled to at minimum, mechanical royalties.

Frank Branham says

I believe the only proper solution in this case is to do a note-for-note cover of a Glee song, and release it into the public domain. Let them try to sort THAT one out.

Tom says

JC, if you're still mad - and you should be - may I suggest heading to Glee's FB page for some light reading! They aregetting fucking crucified. It's very cathartic. I haven't seen kids get thrashed this gloriously since the Childrens Crusade.

Ben Bradley says

Have you considered (asking your lawyer about) asking iTunes to remove the Glee recording? This might already be on a long list of thing you're having your attorney(s) looking into.

Erin Hoffman says

Okaaaaaaay I won't burn anything down... but I will buy a couple of mp3 albums.

If an Apple abuse report pile-on would help, say the word. It sure seems to me that because you modified the melody it should be covered by violation of copyright fair use?

D.G. Brown says

We need a hashtag for boycotting Fox...

Kevin Esmeier says

I wrote about this on my site, and came up with a splendid idea...

Jonathan Coulton the musician could do what he does best… write a scathing ditty about how Glee feeds on hard working musicians and artists and only leaves a hallow carcass behind with no regard for the writers, producers, musicians, artists, and performers, some of which see their creations as their “children”. That, I would really like to see and hear.

http://kev2.me/WWLYvJ

Reldan says

J. Walker, a parody does not require a copyright be registered at all. For all intents and purposes, the compulsory license does not cover JoCo's version of Baby Got Back, but the point is that it doesn't need to for JoCo to be able to exercise his copyright of the parts of his version that make it a unique parody of the original.

My understanding, however, is that at this point JoCo would have to register his copyright as a parody (which would not require Mix-A-Lot's permission) and this would limit the compensation he could receive from the lifting of his arrangement/melody/lyrics for being registered after the infringement already occurred - but it might stand the chance of pushing Fox to settle.

David Markland says

The legal issue is sort of moot. Ethically, however, what Fox and Glee's creative team are doing is flat out wrong. And for this there is action that can be taken (and is).

Posting on their Facebook page, and speaking out on Glee fan forums, so people know what happened, is a positive step. Post info on iTunes as to what happened as well. Getting the press to cover this issue is bigger and better.

No matter how many times Fox claims they're in the legal right, it only exposes that they're hiding behind lawyers to do something that everyone knows is wrong. I bet eventually they'll cave, but they'll need to be held accountable to answer: why did it take a public backlash to do the obvious?

Kevin Esmeier says

This issue made it onto "This Week In Law" (http://twit.tv/show/this-week-in-law/195) starts at the 15:30 point.

Tom says

Extremely interesting. Thanks for the link Kevin.

Shaddi says

At the very least can't we report the YouTube video as copyrighted, so they take it down? A small step, but it is usually a pain in the ass to prove otherwise in order to get a video back on YouTube.

Will says

I know there was a karaoke version released a while back. Without any words, it's all original content from Jonathan, and he should have automatic copyright from the moment it was set in tangible form. Could that karaoke track be viewed as a separate and original song? And could that be used to press FOX, since they copied his instrumentation and arrangement there?

Caleb says

According to YouTube: "If you believe your copyright-protected work was posted on YouTube without authorization, you may submit a copyright infringement notification. These requests should only be submitted by the copyright owner or an agent authorized to act on the owner’s behalf."

Drew says

Do a Google search for Glee Baby got Back, or Glee I Like Big Butts and the top returns are either Jonathan's version or stories about the controversy. That alone is going to push Fox to make some sort of attribution.

Several seasons ago on American Idol, one of the "edgy" performers did a song with an amazingly different arrangement. Simon and the other judges lauded him on the arrangement. Turns out his arrangement was a rip-off of someone elses amazingly different version of the song.

The internet went wild and the next day, at the results show, they actually addressed the controversy and the singer acknowledged that it was not his own arrangement and that he owed it all to the original artist and he hadn't meant to take credit for it.

The longer Fox and Ryan Murphy deny anything happened, the worse it gets for them. And the public perception hurts them more.

Connor says

This is to be expected from the same people who cancelled Firefly.

Jonathan, I hope you can show FOX that they can't get away with this just because they have money.

Joe says

You know what would be great? If a bunch of people got together and made a full-length Glee parody where one kid steals another kid's song arrangement. Featuring music from our favorite internet artists.

Joe says

Also, did anyone else notice that they cut out the whole verse that included the "Johnnie C's in trouble line" for the show?

Laura says

I, for one, am planning to contact the Apple store to request a takedown of the song because it violates intellectual propery rights. It would be cool if other people could do the same.

It's a long shot, but a lot of companies squirm when the threat of violating IP comes into play, and Apple might just take it down temporarily.

**shrug** Just my $.02

A Funny Cow says

Search Baby Got Back Glee on iTunes. Well played Johnny C ;)

MarkB says

My wife is (was) a Glee fan and also a fan of yours. She is now boycotting the show indefinitely. The silver lining is that because of her boycott, I no longer have to watch/listen to that show butcher music! We'll instead play your music during that time slot. In the meantime, I hope Johnny C gets Fox in trouble.

tek says

Well, it's not exposure in the sense that they credited you but the controversy certainly has given you a lot of exposure on a ton of very popular websites so what they said isn't untrue. I own your albums and I get that it feels shitty that someone took your entire arrangement but that's how covers work. I guess if you're really spiteful you could do a whole album of covers where you do them with Glee arrangements, lol.

Mattface says

Everyone buy the newest and bestest version! The cover of Glee's cover of Jonathan Coulton's Cover of Baby got back!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/baby-got-back-in-style-glee/id596893770

DiemN says

Saw Glee last night and was excited to see your version being portrayed, thinking you were being put on the map. So disappointed and disgusted with Glee now that I am informed of the truth! I got your back, my friend! No more Glee for me! :-)

dan says

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/baby-got-back-in-style-glee/id596893770
Classic move! Buy it, review it!

KiTA says

Mr. Coulton, they definitely stole your instrumentals for their version -- This one syncs up perfectly:
https://soundcloud.com/alacrion/joco-v-glee

So your next stop should be clear -- you should send a DMCA request to iTunes, Hulu, Dish Network (video on demand), what have you, and get their ripoff and the episode contained inside it removed.

If Fox gets enough negative publicity from this, they WILL do the right thing -- but only if forced to by literally having no other options available to them.

rayborn says

Here's a screenshot of them saying they are 'Jonathon Coulton-izing' the song:
https://twitter.com/shanselman/status/295088227293990912/photo/1

Jason says

@Rayborn that's HuluPlus saying that... not Fox/Glee

@KiTA.. Negative publicity is better than no publicity.

Their episode was already up nearly 2 million viewers.. That's just live viewers. Scandal sells and that's clearly a fact in this situation. People were curious and wanted to see how it unfolded.

Let's see how the numbers stack up next week. We'll see how this hurts (possibly helps?) Glee in the future.

Zrelia says

I think it's horrible that they didn't credit you after ripping you off. I got your back 100% Johnny C. I promise I won't burn anything down....yet although it is fun ;).

rory says

Hypocrites they sue everyone with dubious copyright claims and then do this. bunch money grabbing arseholes. Good luck to you sir.

Mikolaj Holowko says

F'cking hell man. Get those bastards by their arses!

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James says

Don't burn anything down? Screw that! I gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that's gonna burn their houses down! Do they really think saying that you should be grateful for this "exposure" will keep you quiet? There are people who still don't know JoCo made the arrangement or are just finding out about it. I can't believe a show that's trying to educate viewers on morals (LGBT issues, misogyny, domestic violence etc.) has done and said those things. But what makes Glee a real hypocrite is that in season one's episode "Sectionals" they actually touched on the issue of cheating and claiming someone's idea as their own. Now here they're acting like it's ok for them to take an arrangement and not give any credit or royalties to JoCo, but back then it was not ok for little Glee Clubs to steal ideas from one another.

I'm with Joco says

I made a Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/ImWithJoco

Join it! (Unless Jonathan doesn't like it, in which case I'll sheepishly delete it.)

Blackwell Junior says

Ugh, the logic of some of the people trying to defend Glee on Facebook etc defies me...

First they try to argue "But do you really know Glee stole it? Do you really know Fox isn't paying Jonathan Coulton"

And when you come up with sources (eg. the blog post I am currently commenting) they try to reason with things along the lines of "Well, I don't care, I like Glee", "This isn't the first time this happened, so that Jonathon guy shouldn't complain so much", "The cover sucks anyway" or "Aren't there more serious things in the world to worry about?".

When they are argumentatively backed up against the wall, they are coming up with knockout arguments.

Jeff G says

This is not legal advice, nor should it be construed as such, but as a lawyer with knowledge in this area, I think this claim has merit, and Glee/FOX should have licensed the work from JC. Another abuse of an independent musician by the big media.

when someone wanted to use a sliver of a simpson's episode in a documentary (ir was playing on a tv in the background of an interview) a few years back, fox wanted $250,000 for the "non-profit, educational rate".....the use would have CLEARLY been "fair".....I think JC could prevail, and Glee should have paid for a license, particularly given the nature of FOX's aggressive pursuit of (C) infringement claims when their works are being compromised

I'll certainly follow this story as the events unfold. Good Luck, JC

Jeff G says

..and to Blackwell's point, if the cover sucks so much, why did Glee want to use it so bad? :)

Jeff J. says

I think the way to do is the non-money / non-legal route. Just shame them into admitting that they stole your idea and maybe the actual recording. Maybe contact the people that actually make the show rather than the legal people at Fox. I'd hope the same people that make the wonderfully weird and creepy American Horror Story might feel bad about stealing the creation of a fellow artist. Who knows, it might be a post production mix up and they'd be willing to fess up and apologize.

Good luck and if I ever finish my story based on "Re: Your Brains" (part of a book I'm writing) I'll make sure to contact you first and tell you about it because I love your stuff and respect the hell out of you brain and heart (though not in any zombie way, honest).

Nate says

Someone else posted this fact in it too = http://kotaku.com/5979061?post=56640867

"The weirdest and most damning part for me is the line "Johnny C's in trouble" (about 2:14 in Coulton's version, 2:16 in Glee's version). This is a line that Coulton changed from the original in which it said, "Mix-a-lot's in trouble." That means, without a doubt, that Glee stole the arrangement and even the minor changes that Coulton made. So regardless of the songs sounding exactly the same and Fox making a shit ton of money off of Coulton's work, they didn't make any attempts to even hide the fact that they so shamelessly ripped off Coulton. Legally, I understand their actions. Morally? Ethically? Pretty fucking terrible." -corpocracy

Susan Csikos says

Hey Jon -

I know it was a cover, but you had to write an original tune to go with the words that didn't exist before. Isn't there some protection for your original work?

R2 says

Glee is a huge show world wide so it will be worth keeping an eye on what happens outside the US.

The issue that appears to give Glee the legal right to this in the US (compulsory licences under 17 USC § 115) does not exist in any other country as far as I know.

Certainly the statutory position in the UK (where glee is pretty popular) is clear.

Your arrangement would be protected by copyright and Glee would need permission. Two things that are unknown to me are

a. Did the compulsory license for rights to cover the lyrics have contractual terms over and above the terms of the US copyright act (e.g. "by paying this fee you agree to assign any copyright in other countries"

b. Whether bringing up copyright abroad could open a can of worms regarding permission to use the lyrics outside the US.

Evan T says

This morning I had an idea. Should you decide to use it, and if you were successful in its execution, it would shame the producer, make the controversy known, and give you a little something called "The Colbert Bump."

What you do is contact the makers of the Colbert Report. Give them all the gory the details of this controversy. Suggest that the producer of Glee (Ryan Murphy?) and whoever else is responsible are "Alpha Dogs." This is because they are. Colbert's "Alpha Dog of the Week" segment usually deals with situations like this - a single entity that repeatedly acts like a jerk in a short time span, but what they do is technically legal. You get recognition and the folks who did this get skewered. you may even get an interview.

I don't know whether you can convince them to air such a segment, which is partially because I do not know what your relationship with them is like, assuming any exists. Perhaps you can get to Jon Stewart (who produces the Report) through John Hodgman. This "Jo(h)n chain" may be a good bet, considering you have worked with Hodgman before and he is a Daily Show contributor. Of course, such a segment may already be in the works.

It's just a thought of mine. I hope that the idea is workable. Obviously, you can use it. Just give me credit for it because not doing so would be hypocritical.

Sean R says

I just purchased his album on Google Play to support him and I'll be spreading this story to others and encouraging them to purchase his album. Lets turn this negative into a positive for him.

Chris says

I have been following this and becoming more and more angry... then I realized I zero Coulton songs in iTunes. So I just went and bought 3 albums. I can't do anything to punch Fox in the nads, but I can send some cash JoCo's way...

Jason says

I'm not gonna back Glee but if what they are doing is legal then such is life. There are loopholes out there that are gonna be unfair for some people. No use crying over spilled milk. I'm sure JoCo is pissed and a bit bitter but it's not the end of the world by any means.

Maybe this is just incentive for more artists to be more careful about original work in the use of a cover and take more precautions to obtain the correct protection from use like this again.

The only thing I can really say now is that we just gotta move on, support John by purchasing an album or two, spread the word on his music, and wish him well on future endeavors and hope we get a good song or album soon.

As for Glee, well.. We'll see how the numbers dwindle, if at all, over the course of the season. It's already bombed from season 3 anyways. It's slowly becoming irrelevant anyways. Numbers for this episode were the 3rd highest of the season so far for live viewers because.. let's face it.. scandal sells.

Brian.Nowell says

I'm sorry this is happening to you, and I hope things work out well. Best wishes and good vibes in route.

Liz says

I heard that they said that they do not recognize the covers of covers excuse and this is completely ridiculous. When they did "I will always love you" they did not bill it as a cover of Dolly Parton's song, it was a cover of Whitney Houston's cover of "I will always love you". I would be interested in who they paid for that song?

Tom says

@Blackwell, does that really surprise you? I'm sure you've noticed by now the average Glee fan has trouble stringing more than 6 words together. The below average ones are non-functionally illiterate and the exceptional ones can manage full sentences.

Richard says

You know, what would make this whole thing turn out with some serious social justice would be if as many other musicians and musical artists out there were to deny the use of their IP on the show... take away Glee's music and what have you got? yet another sappy, saccharine tween drama...

I wonder how many other musicians, artists and record labels would be in support of this cause and take a stand against theft and piracy like this.

PurpleFaceMcgee says

Wow, I knew Fox had a couple of screw balls there, but what the hell? They blatantly ripped you off. I listened to the track, and I'm pretty sure that was your music in the background.

BL says

Disclosure: while I have studied and followed developments in IP law for years, I am not a lawyer; this is not legal advice nor an offer of legal services, it is simply my opinion as a layman. With all due respect to your current counsel, if they're telling you that there's nothing you can do and that FOX is within their rights then you need to find better lawyers. In my opinion, at the very least you are due royalties under a mechanical license (and probably are due more than that); as those have not been forthcoming this is a pretty obvious copyright violation and should be actionable under 17 USC sec. 501 (a) and related statutes, including affording you the club of the DMCA to beat them over the head with. If it were me I would send DMCA takedown notices against their recording and episode to Apple, YouTube, and any Fox affiliates that air Glee for illegal reproductions of your copyrighted work.

I would argue that calling your work a "cover" Sir-Mix-a-Lot's song muddies the waters and does not give adequate credit to your original work. A "cover" isn't just about lyrics, it implies that you are employing analogous if not identical musical structures to another song, so as to be melodically identifiable with the original. What you produced was not a cover any more than the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th was a "cover" of Schiller's "Ode to Joy" -- you produced an original composition of music, employing lyrics that were written by someone else originally for another purpose. What FOX mis-appropriated was that original work, your property.

Clyde says

Now if someone sees you for the first time and you do that song, they'll say, "That's the version from Glee."

Goodfellow says

*Snuffs torch*

But I really wanted to burn something down....

Tony Youngblood says

I agree with BL. I think if you filed a lawsuit, you would win. And since Glee doesn't look like they're going to apologize and try to make it right, legal recourse may be the only way to go.

Sometimes the best way to fight an obscure legal loophole is with another obscure legal loophole. While your arrangement of the song may not be under copyright because of the cover song loophole, I believe your melody is indeed copyright-able. The question is, can the melody exist independent of Baby Got Back, without using any part of Baby Got Back? From what I can tell, it can. No part of your melody was taken from the original song. If an artist were covering a mashup of two songs, they would be obliged to get clearance from both songs' publishers. Your cover could be viewed as a mashup of Baby Got Back and an original instrumental.

My recommendation would be to record an instrumental version of your melody (or a new version with arbitrary lyrics) and get copyright/publishing rights on it. The fact that you sought the copyright after you made the cover does not matter. Applying for a copyright is only registering the copyright you already have. Technically, work is copyrighted the moment you create it . It's just not yet registered with the U.S. Copyright office. But when you seek registration, it will apply retroactively to the moment you created the melody. (Music industry copyright lawyers here may want to check this to make sure I'm understanding correctly. Is there a Don Passman in the house?)

With an instrumental version, no matter when it was recorded, you will be able to say, "Glee unlawfully used my melody in their cover of Baby Got Back. I also used this melody in my version of Baby Got Back. I am within my rights to use my own melody. They are not."

JP says

Here, I decided at at least give SOME help by publishing it on Glee's Facebook!

http://www.facebook.com/Glee

jdgalt says

You're certainly morally right, but that does not mean a lawsuit against a giant corporation is going to pay for itself.

I suggest doing as the ancient bards did -- write a song that makes fun of the bad guys and sing it to the world!

Brett Glass says

It's been done. See "United Breaks Guitars" on YouTube.

JP says

Ha! They erased it within hours. Sorry, I tried, but they're good at what they do.

Gary says

Somehow i don't care about this. They are right in a way that while you were not unknown you are know far more well known. While they may be on dodgy ethical ground you have to take the positives from this, and for all the people on their high horse..meh

Gary says

to add basically all you really care about is getting money from this, not some crusade for recognition, because you have that..i for one had no clue who you were and by kicking up a stink now i do and lots of others too. Exposure is the most important thing you can have and press

Duglarri says

Heard both courtesy of the Wired page - this is ridiculous. Glee's is yours. Not theirs. This is appalling.

Point though: is your version really a cover? Seems to me that you did not actually cover the Sir Mix-A-Lot version at all. You didn't bring over his tune (rap, so what tune). You created one for this.

What you have here is a new musical composition and SMAL's lyrics. SMAL should therefore get a lyric credit, but it's not a cover. You didn't use his tune.

And once that is established, the common copyright law applies: would a lay person consider that the two compositions- Glee's and yours- are the same? Absolutely they would.

jelp says

"I can’t believe a show that’s trying to educate viewers on morals (LGBT issues, misogyny, domestic violence etc.) has done and said those things. "

@James, believe it! Glee is a terrible show all around. Even its fans have felt insulted and tormented by the hypocrisy, inconsistencies and character assassination over the years. It's not a pleasant show to get invested in. It claims to represent underdogs and be against bullying, but most of its comedy comes from snide, hurtful remarks and offensive/racist/sexist jokes by "outrageous" characters.

It claims to represent LGBT youth, but the double standards are glaring and have caused many fans to start equality campaigns (The Glee Equality Project, The Box Scene Project, etc.) Gay couples barely get to kiss, talk, or even sit next to each other compared to the straight couples. They find any reason to keep them apart and gave beloved couples that had been great inspirations to fans ugly, out of character break-ups. When fans have brought their concerns to their attention, the creators have been glib and even hostile toward them, or even made ridiculous rationalizations about how members of gay couples never interact because they don't like to be touched (something that has not been addressed in the story). They made jokes on the show about "the angry lesbian blogging community" to add salt to the wounds when a bisexual character's relationship with a male was given much more care and attention than her relationship with a woman was.

The big "issues" episodes Glee has attempted about suicide and domestic violence and even texting while driving were considered by many to be offensive and handled in an irresponsible, promoted in a sensationalized way just to get ratings.
I used to love certain characters, but gave up on Glee long ago. It just wasn't enjoyable to watch on any level. Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee basically likes to stir the pot. I feel like from top to bottom, the writing to the music production, it does not have much integrity and should be left to fade away (after being held responsible for the theft, like in the case of John Coulton.)

jelp says

Basically, what I was saying is Glee gets a lot of credit for being "progressive" but is actually a fairly mean-spirited, haphazard show with behind-the-scenes practices as dubious as its taste. Being a fan of it for a couple of years left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Outsiders may just think it's a rather tacky or uncool program, but those who have actually watched the show are probably even more frustrated its wasted potential and its creators' often callous attitude toward artists and fans alike.

Karen Ke says

Whoever told you there was no copyright claim here is not the best intellectual property lawyer in the bunch. When you create a derivative right under license from the original copyright holder, how much of what you create is actually copyrighted to you as new work is a very complex area. There's a strong argument to be made in your favor, where the licensee makes considerable changes in the original. Find a better, more experienced copyright lawyer who knows something about the recording process and try again.

Drew says

Glee has never been a good show. This has always been a good song. Downloading the single. Glee is wrong on so many levels, and I hope the producers get everything their karma owes them.

Skell says

Fact is this was not popular on the show or in the itunes chart :P There is obviously a reason why you haven't made it...

Even so, i actually like this version ;)

Dmitry says

Jonathan, your fans with you ;) Show them.

Michael Isaacson says

Hulu apparently is on JoCo's side, as when my wife pulled it up the synopsis snippet was: Female empowerment rules the school as the Glee club revamps and Johnathan Coulton-izes "Baby Got Back."

Dave says

So even if it turns out that copyright law lets them rip you off "legally" and use the track in their show without crediting you, there is *no way* that copyright law lets them go on to sell it on iTunes.

Go after them for making a profit off of your version of the song; seems like a much easier and provable route to take.

Using your arrangement on their show was clearly unethical but who knows, maybe it was legal. But by selling it on iTunes they've overplayed their hand. Take 'em down!

While you wait for the wheels of justice to creak into motion, you could take the most popular songs of the day, record your own nearly-identical versions, and sell them on iTunes just to make a point. :)

Paul R. Potts says

I made another thing, with the help of some other fans in the forums.

http://geeklikemetoo.blogspot.com/2013/01/crowd-sourced-forensic-audio-analysis.html

Also, there's a little video that goes with it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03_Lcnk6SzE

What I believe we've shown is that Glee used Coulton's Karaoke track as a starting point, then center-cancelled it to get rid of the bass, and some of the percussion. They did not start with the full song in FLAC form or from the CD track, because if they had done that, they could have perfectly killed the duck quack. They didn't start with the regular song in MP3 format, because if they had done that, the center kill would have left a hint of Coulton's lead vocal. They did not use Coulton's bass line, as Caleb Hines has shown. They used the Karaoke track, and it left a trace of the duck quack there. They chopped it up and copied and pasted some segments to choose simpler parts of the banjo and get rid of some of the bits of Coulton's backing vocals (the "little/middle" bits). They tweaked the opening hand claps (as Jon Schell has shown). Most of Coulton's backing vocals, though, are _still there_. They added a new bass line and some of the percussion. They added some new backing vocals (with a sh*t ton of auto-tune) and added a new lead vocal, and some little fake "string squeak" noises.

So that's what they did, and how they did it. If you don't believe me, try the experiment yourself -- I've described exactly what I did in that blog entry. Thanks.

BellaLuvsGreen2 says

I agree with Gary :)

daemondamian says

Hi Johnathan,
I would like to know if your version of BGB in the Itunes store has increased dramatically in sales recently since the issue of Glee using it occurred?

Specifically I'm wondering have you gotten 1637 sales of your version as that is how many 1 star ratings the Glee cover has gotten, with many reviews lambasting it for being stolen from you?

Thanks.

Carter says

Like others, I am appalled that the producers of Glee have taken such an arrogant stance in this affair. What kills me is that if they had done the normal thing and contacted JoCo about the use of his cover, he probably would have been flattered, and helped them with it with far less compensation and hassle than most artists. It would have been good for Glee as a nod to geek culture, gaining a new audience. It would have been good for JoCo for increased exposure. Everyone wins.
By taking this combative approach, the producers have created a lose/lose situation. I suspect that it was a low level legal drone that actually created this impasse, as anyone with a speck of awareness would see and anticipate the reaction this is receiving.
I’m not a lawyer and in no way could navigate the legalities of this case. But I do know how to follow the money. Shows like Glee live and die by their sponsors. I, for one, will be contacting these sponsors informing them of my dismay at their support of such distasteful and immoral activity.

Karla says

Just watching the Glee episode in question and I was absolutely gobsmacked when I heard your song start. I actually had to do a double take as I've known and listened to your version of this song for years and I cannot believe they have had the audacity to rip off your version of the song so shamelessly. Apart from at the end, they didn't even try to change it. Even the same instruments used and I think you're right that they used part of your track. I just cannot believe they can get away with this. It would have been so easy to credit you for this and it makes me furious that they don't, not even giving you a heads up. I will purchase my second copy of your song this evening but I'll go a step further and boycott glee because I can't enjoy it anymore after this :(

Mads says

I dont know if this is funny or sad really. If anyone wants to share it on facebook, here is something you can copy paste with source for Fox´ own damnation of piracy, followed by the link to the video proving they pirated the Jonathans music

Fox damns piracy - "It started of course with music. Pirated CDs, the first currency of Black Market bartering"
http://youtu.be/00Tz1f29YJo?t=47s

Fox continues to pirate other peoples songs for their own shows:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03_Lcnk6SzE

STiAT says

Well, I agree with them, you should be glad about the exposure. But it's not much of an exposure if you're not even named. Secondly, they do profit out of your song in iTunes. Though, I see their right to give their cover version up there, but it's as always, you need to name the original track creator - which would be either Sir Mix-a-Lot or you.

By selling it on iTunes they definitely have violated the non-commercial use, if you can get proof it's really your song.

Jon Schell says

Paul! EXCELLENT WORK!!! Really, amazing! I wish I could duplicate your experiment, but I have an unfortunate severe lack of time to deal with and I also don't have the karaoke tracks.

Again, nicely done!

-Jon

Chad says

Have you considered filing a DMCA complaint? Isn't it standard procedure to immediately remove any content with a DMCA complaint until the issue is resolved?

Nicki Minaj's butt says

You can definitely see your expertise in the paintings you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren't afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart.

HUMM says

I don't see the point. The copyright is to the original composer which is not Coulton unless they make a special arrangement. Which obviously didn't happen. So the licencing fees go to the copyright owner.
But if Coulton wants to exploit the copyright owner by claiming his fees for himself... and as long as the original tunes are acknowledged to be from the original composer and not Coulton there is no sense in complaining.

And of course there is a sense behind this law because having many coverversions with their own copyright claims would lead to a situation where you could discussif a certain cover did lend some parts from some other cover versions and therefore having do distribute the fees to many cover authors and the original composer.

DailyLlama says

JC, hang in there! What gets me is that Fox is hereby pissing off many of their fans to, because they share a generous demographic with you. And we're crafty, vocal, millennials who always side against the MAN.

But seriously, let's turn this to lemonade... do a make-good deal with Fox to have them pay you to perform a cover of "Still Alive" in an episode. Maybe you make a guest appearance?

Rimbo says

http://www.apple.com/legal/contact/#copyright-infringement

One easy option: You can report the copyright infringement via iTunes, no?

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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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.

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.

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!

abokeBeaumma says

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johnchow says

composition and the recording are different i think.

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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