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January 18, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Fox's TV show Glee has unambiguously used without attribution Jonathan Coulton's acoustic cover of the Sir Mix-a-Lot song "Baby Got Back," including keeping in modified lyrics and possibly using actual sound effects from Coulton's original piece. Coulton has confirmed that Fox never contacted him in any way about the use of his arrangement. While Coulton offers his music under Creative Commons, Fox has released several albums of Glee cast song covers for sale on iTunes, selling more than 13 million singles.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (154 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I barely know who this guy is but I am always happy to have another reason to hate Glee.
posted by elizardbits at 9:13 AM on January 18, 2013 [24 favorites]


They're getting meta. A soulless and clueless cover of a cover.
posted by cmoj at 9:14 AM on January 18, 2013


He's well worth knowing the work of. Can't say this behavior surprises me out of Fox and Glee, though.
posted by Archelaus at 9:14 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coulton did the songs at the end of the Portal games.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:16 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The obvious question was the CC licence. Looking it up, it's Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial. Fox are in straight up breach absent defences (although I suspect they'll settle or weasel out). Parody of a parody is the main fair use defence.

Interestingly, Coulton also states that "2) don’t use it to make money (this does not apply to songs with material that I don’t own, like covers and mashups and remixes)."

This is unambiguously a cover, so I suspect Fox will just offer attribution as Coulton has arguably set up an attribution-only licence for covers. Fox are going to offer a desultory sum with the knowledge they can pay the legal bills and JoCo probably can't.
posted by jaduncan at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Coulton said on Twitter this morning there is a sound of a duck in his version that shows up on the Glee version (the song is for an upcoming episode).

This reminds me of when I watched the show the first season or two, and one of their breakout hits was a cover of Journey's Don't Stop Believin' and everyone raved about it but it sounded like a rip-off to me, since I'd bought an album years before called Guilty Pleasures that featured the singer Petra Hayden doing the song. She did every part of the song herself (even guitar riffs, it's pretty amusing) but the sound of the version they did on Glee sounds directly lifted from Hayden's arrangement (without the guitar riffs sung).
posted by mathowie at 9:19 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well this is like the perfect storm for the internet. Uncool show on evil network vs. cool indie musician cover of popular hip hop song. Something for everyone.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:20 AM on January 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


His cover of Baby Got Back is one of my all-time favorite covers - it cracks me up every single time I hear it, particularly the quack. If you haven't heard it, go get it - will not disappoint, I promise.
posted by widdershins at 9:27 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


2bucksplus: "Well this is like the perfect storm for the internet. Uncool show on evil network vs. cool indie musician cover of popular hip hop song. Something for everyone."

Baby's got tort. I wonder how many CC related lawsuits there have been so far? I think this is the highest profile one thus far.
posted by boo_radley at 9:28 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is indeed a perfect shitstorm. Does anyone care about the back story? I'm friends with the writer who lobbied to use Coulton on Glee, and he was thrilled that they were going to use his song, because he thought Coulton would get a nice paycheck out of it.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:28 AM on January 18, 2013 [59 favorites]


If you sync them up via the YouTube links, they are completely indistinguishable. Phrasing, timing, everything.

For a company who makes its money on doing covers, you'd think they would know all the ins and outs of music rights. Now in his own general explanation in the "Coulton offers" link, Coulton generalizes it as:

"2) don’t use it to make money (this does not apply to songs with material that I don’t own, like covers and mashups and remixes)."

So how does this fall? His CC license covers his arrangement, or just his recording of the cover?
posted by shinynewnick at 9:29 AM on January 18, 2013


Ryan Murphy is history's greatest monster!
posted by yellowbinder at 9:33 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hope Coulton sues Fox so they are forced to use the Latin version.

C'mon, y'all. Drop it like a Caesar!

magnae clunes mihi placent, nec possum de hac re mentiri.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:34 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nooo Ryan Murphy made Popular, he can't be a monster!
posted by Hazelsmrf at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


2) don’t use it to make money (this does not apply to songs with material that I don’t own, like covers and mashups and remixes)

It's sort of sticky, though, isn't it? He specifically says the non-commercial clause doesn't apply to songs "with" material that he doesn't own, which would include this cover, no? The arrangement is his, and is probably copyrightable as a derivative work (similarity to Leaving on a Jet Plane notwithstanding), but is he waiving the non-commercial clause in the case of covers in his FAQ?

(I really don't know. Somebody here might.)
posted by uncleozzy at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2013


Coulton stole the idea from Nina Gordon - so....
posted by progosk at 9:41 AM on January 18, 2013


And Nina Gordon was following Alanis Morissette's lead?
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 9:45 AM on January 18, 2013


Coulton has been keeping up his share of payments to Mix-A-Lot, right?
posted by Ardiril at 9:45 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It still fails on the first part of CC: "credit me and link to this site."

Also, I think an argument can be made that the 'don't make money off it unless it's a cover/remix/mashup' could conceivably apply just the material he didnt' create. IE, he can't prevent you from making another cover of Baby Got Back. That doesn't mean you can arrange your cover exactly like he did.

Coulton has been keeping up his share of payments to Mix-A-Lot, right?

Do you have evidence that Coulton did not obtain the proper license before distributing his cover?
posted by muddgirl at 9:48 AM on January 18, 2013


Coulton has been keeping up his share of payments to Mix-A-Lot, right?

I would imagine he has. He strikes me as someone who takes that sort of thing quite seriously. Or were you just trolling?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


As for the duck, did Coulton actually record the duck himself? Or, is it a sound effect he lifted? Sounds to me like the only thing he has going for him is the changed lyrics.
posted by Ardiril at 9:51 AM on January 18, 2013


Sounds to me like the only thing he has going for him is the changed lyrics.

And, you know, all the music.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:52 AM on January 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


Musical arrangements are absolutely protected IP. I don't know what would lead someone to think they aren't.
posted by muddgirl at 9:56 AM on January 18, 2013


Can't we just go ahead and take pre-emptive legal action against anyone recording a cutesy "ironic" version of a hip-hop song?
posted by threeants at 9:57 AM on January 18, 2013 [17 favorites]


He specifically says the non-commercial clause doesn't apply to songs "with" material that he doesn't own, which would include this cover, no?

The way I read his explanation is that the entire CC license doesn't apply to songs with material that he does not own, since he has no right to license it to others. (As opposed to only the non-commercial clause not applying).

Coulton has been keeping up his share of payments to Mix-A-Lot, right?

Actually he'd be paying BMI for the public performance license (e.g. at concerts) and the Harry Fox Agency if he recorded the song and distributed copies.

Musical arrangements are absolutely protected IP.

Only if they're properly licensed (which this one may be, for all I know).
posted by jedicus at 9:58 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


And Nina Gordon was following Alanis Morissette's lead?

Noooooooooo that Nina cover was floating around years before My Humps was even a thing.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:59 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is all dependent Coulter's mechanical license with the original song's publisher.
posted by Ardiril at 10:00 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also Lisa Loeb's No Scrubs EDIT skip to 2:50ish.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:02 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


And Nina Gordon was following Alanis Morissette's lead?

Jesus, man. That's like saying saying how terrible the Apocalypse Now helicopter scene was for knocking off "Kill The Wabbit".
posted by mhoye at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


THIS is copyright infringement. Listening to music is not copyright infringement. Taking someone else's work and passing it off as your own, for profit, THAT'S copyright infringement.
posted by BurnChao at 10:10 AM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well this is like the perfect storm for the internet. Uncool show on evil network vs. cool indie musician cover of popular hip hop song. Something for everyone.

Deploy the Paul and Storm Brigade of Minions!
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:10 AM on January 18, 2013


Ardiril: “That is all dependent Coulter's mechanical license with the original song's publisher.”

First of all, I imagine Jonathan Coulton would be slightly annoyed at your confusing his name with a certain other person's name.

Second of all, parody is fair use, so I'm not sure you're right about that.
posted by koeselitz at 10:13 AM on January 18, 2013


Musical arrangements are absolutely protected IP. I don't know what would lead someone to think they.

Maybe it's that whole generation of internet users who don't respect IP rights and think everything copyrighted is free for the taking?
posted by three blind mice at 10:14 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would imagine he has. He strikes me as someone who takes that sort of thing quite seriously. Or were you just trolling?

Ardiril's always trolling.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Deploy the Paul and Storm Brigade of Minions!

Oh, P&S are all over this on Twitter, although as of a few minutes ago they're holding off until they get confirmation that this is an official Glee thing and not just the work of over-eager fan.
posted by bondcliff at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2013


Maybe it's that whole generation of internet users who don't respect IP rights and think everything copyrighted is free for the taking?

Yes, copyright violations were invented by Millenials. That's why we're all in such a tizzy, because we don't have over 200 years of case law concerning IP.
posted by muddgirl at 10:18 AM on January 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Let's hear from the man himself:
…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.…
posted by adamrice at 10:20 AM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Maybe it's that whole generation of internet users who don't respect IP rights and think everything copyrighted is free for the taking?

Fair enough, but maybe it's also because of a business culture which can't comprehend how something may be freely licensed and made available to others over the Internet while remaining under copyright.

How many times has a company been caught blatantly violating the GNU General Public License only to insist that they didn't do anything wrong because the code they stole was "in the public domain"?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


I simply don't understand why people feel the need to tack extra terms onto carefully crafted licences. They may superficially think they're just doing a little tweaking but even half a moment's thought confirms that all they're really doing is adding room for ambiguity, arguing and lawyers.

There are so many licences out there that have been written by legally trained people, and then reviewed and approved by other trained people. Use one of those. Never, ever, write your own. You'd just be giving them rope to hang you with. If you can't find a licence that fits your needs then compromise or pay someone to draft one for you. Almost always compromising is the best option at this point.

I work with a lot of source code. People constantly "tweak" licences, and from the quality of the code they seem to be capable, intelligent people. It boggles my mind.
posted by samworm at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


So...Fridays aren't "information wants to be free" days on Metafilter then? Good to know.
posted by yoink at 10:30 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, could the people who make "Glee" have found any better way to say "We are the least creative people on the planet"? They didn't even change the lyrics to remove Coulton's name.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:32 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


So...Fridays aren't "information wants to be free" days on Metafilter then? Good to know.

I think the information that "this music was written by Jonathan Coulton" is the information that needs to be "freed" by Fox.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:34 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


First of all, I imagine Jonathan Coulton would be slightly annoyed at your confusing his name with a certain other person's name.

I certainly would be. He didn't cut away any children's dæmons, and to subject him even partially to the connotations of that name is absolutely cruel.

How many times has a company been caught blatantly violating the GNU General Public License only to insist that they didn't do anything wrong because the code they stole was "in the public domain"?

Has anyone managed to successfully sue the pants off any corporations or companies for doing this? It doesn't look like Sony got into particular trouble because of the GPL/LGPL stuff with the rootkit stuff, just all the other stuff that happened during that rootkit scandal, but it's possible I'm missing something.
posted by NoraReed at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


So...Fridays aren't "information wants to be free" days on Metafilter then? Good to know.

I think most people differentiate between copying for personal consumption and copying for profit.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


One possible source of confusion in this thread, which unfortunately may be too late to rectify, is that some people who don't know Jonathan Coulton might think this is a case of "Hey, my sister's boyfriend, who does lots of covers for YouTube, noticed that Glee's new cover of a Mix-a-lot song sounds an AWFUL LOT like some cool stuff Johnny recorded 5 years ago!!!" Because they have no idea who Jonathan Coulton is.

Suffice to say, I assure you, in the circles he performs and tours in, Coulton is an actual Big Deal and legitimately enough of a full-time pro that this isn't just some minor lift, but a real case of a professional musician doing a full arrangement of a song and then finding that a Fox show has lifted the samples and arrangement, without any compensation.

Now, you may or may not LIKE his music having heard it, or you might like it a lot, but be assured, this guy's the real tamale. In news that made the rounds a year or two back, he revealed he'd made half a million dollars in 2010.

For what it's worth, FOX is kind of legendary for this - Seth MacFarlane (you know who he is, right?) has mentioned them going after specific songs for references, and FOX lawyers giving them algorithms of how many notes to change in the song for it to be considered a new work, so they don't have to pay any fees.
posted by jscott at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


I don't think it's surprising that Metafilter (in aggregate) isn't OK with companies who benefit from IP held by individuals, but is OK with individuals who benefit IP held by companies.

There is not an equal balance of power or money between me (for example) illegally downloading a Taylor Swift track, and Taylor Swift covering, without license, a song she downloaded off my website.
posted by muddgirl at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


(But yes, we perhaps-improperly consider Coulton to be One Of Us, and not One Of Them.)
posted by muddgirl at 10:37 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I bought the statutory license to distribute my version of this song through Harry Fox"

If Harry Fox is involved, Coulton likely received the barest minimal rights to distribute the song. Universal/Polygram may well have retained copyright over Coulton's added content in exchange for the right to distribute. We need the exact wording of that license.

You can chew on this in the mean time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work
posted by Ardiril at 10:39 AM on January 18, 2013


From Coulton's blog: it sounds like it actually uses the audio from my recording – not the vocals obviously, but the instruments sound EXTREMELY similar

Buh? Where would they have gotten it? And besides, I haven't listened all the way through either version, but it's pretty clear those are different recordings, even on my lousy office earbuds. (The Glee version pares the arrangement back a little bit, doesn't it? It's missing the ukulele (?) fills and seems to have simplified the guitar/banjo parts.)
posted by uncleozzy at 10:44 AM on January 18, 2013


So far, there's only notes on unofficial wikis, and the Youtube link smells like a fake account trying to look official (look at the Twitter and Tumblr links, as well as the "25 songs Glee should cover" videos the account has put up).

I definitely don't want to see JoCo ripped off, but some things don't add up, and we're approaching the point where the Outrage Genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back in.
posted by Tknophobia at 10:44 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


So...Fridays aren't "information wants to be free" days on Metafilter then? Good to know.

It's almost as though people think individuals making copies for their own use should be treated differently than multinational corporations selling millions of copies for a profit. Madness!

I mean, once you start drawing these distinctions, where does it end? Requiring food safety inspections for commercial kitchens, but not for home cooks? Regulating the content of advertising on broadcast television, but not of personal letters to your friends? Chaos! Anarchy!
posted by enn at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2013 [70 favorites]


Buh? Where would they have gotten it?

I think Coulton has a karaoke version available...
posted by devinemissk at 10:47 AM on January 18, 2013


I think most people differentiate between copying for personal consumption and copying for profit.

That's one way to look at it. Another way is that most people like copying for personal consumption and so bend over backwards to justify it, while they don't benefit from copying for profit and so take a hypocritical moral stand.
posted by Justinian at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


https://itunes.apple.com/se/album/baby-got-back-glee-cast-version/id592420108?i=5924201088

So it looks like iTunes in Sweden has a copy. I can't find it on the US side though.
posted by FritoKAL at 10:53 AM on January 18, 2013


My twitter stream is on fire with people bitching about this. I have friends who got permission from Coulton to do Skullcrusher Mountain on their acappella group's CD; one of them is on Metafilter. Hopefully she'll also weigh in about their experience.
posted by immlass at 10:55 AM on January 18, 2013


Well:

"All my music is released under an Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons license that allows any kind of non-commercial re-use provided you: 1) credit me and link to this site, and 2) don’t use it to make money (this does not apply to songs with material that I don’t own, like covers and mashups and remixes). Really, no need to ask permission, just go make that thing."

and the OP:
"Fox's TV show Glee has unambiguously used without attribution Jonathan Coulton's acoustic cover of the Sir Mix-a-Lot song "Baby Got Back," including keeping in modified lyrics and possibly using actual sound effects from Coulton's original piece."

Am I missing something?
posted by Chuffy at 10:57 AM on January 18, 2013


Does releasing anything under Creative Commons really have any enforceable power? Other than a lot of people on the internet all nodding in-agreement, does a CC statement really mean squat legally?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:57 AM on January 18, 2013


Yes.
posted by crayz at 10:59 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Am I missing something?

Yes. The CC license doesn't apply, but there's another license that does.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:59 AM on January 18, 2013



You can chew on this in the mean time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work


Cover works (i.e. re-recording someone else's song) are a specific type of legal arrangement for music, where you're always entitled to record a cover version as long as you pay mechanical royalties.

"A license can be specifically negotiated between representatives of the interpreting artist and the copyright holder, or recording of published tunes can fall under a mechanical license whereby the recording artist pays a standard royalty to the original author/copyright holder through an organization such as the Harry Fox Agency, and is safe under copyright law even if they do not have any permission from the original author."

IIRC, mechanical royalties originated with piano roll players; they could make copies of existing songs, as long as they paid the standard licence to do so.

As long as Coulton has paid Harry Fox - which he has - then he's fully covered and has all the rights he needs for his specific recording. Obviously he does not gain rights to the original lyrics etc, as those are a separate copyright, but he can certainly kick up a legal stink if the Glee version can be considered a derivative work of his specific recording.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does a CC statement really mean squat legally?

Apparently it does! Although there isn't anything high-profile, it's been upheld and enforced by courts in the US and overseas.
posted by figurant at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2013


Why did he put "This does not apply to covers" in there? What did he intend that to mean, other than "Feel free to rip off my covers"?
posted by 23skidoo at 11:12 AM on January 18, 2013


As for the duck, did Coulton actually record the duck himself?

I think I hear the clippety-clop of little goat hooves crossing over your bridge. Better go check.
posted by elizardbits at 11:12 AM on January 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


He specifically says the non-commercial clause doesn't apply to songs "with" material that he doesn't own, which would include this cover, no?

That was what I thought the FAQ meant at first, but I'm kind of slapping my forehead now, because I'm pretty sure it actually means that the entire CC license doesn't apply to covers. In full:

Can I use a song in my student film/podcast/awesome dance remix?
Yes please. And I would love to see/hear it. All my music is released under an Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons license that allows any kind of non-commercial re-use provided you: 1) credit me and link to this site, and 2) don’t use it to make money (this does not apply to songs with material that I don’t own, like covers and mashups and remixes). Really, no need to ask permission, just go make that thing.


In context, I think the parenthetical is just pointing out that he can't give you permission to use stuff he doesn't own -- "this does not apply" refers to the entire preceding sentence, not just part (2). That makes a lot more sense in general (why apply a non-commercial clause to original work but not covers?) and also matches what he says elsewhere ("Creative Commons doesn’t come into play because it’s a cover song").

Maybe this was obvious to some people, but it sounds like I wasn't the only one who was confused at first.
posted by jhc at 11:16 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


And here comes the boom.

I was kind of hoping it'd turn out to be a hoax, but man, this looks like it's going to end badly.
posted by Tknophobia at 11:18 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I missing something?

Why did he put "This does not apply to covers" in there? What did he intend that to mean, other than "Feel free to rip off my covers"?

He means that CC doesn't apply at all, and those songs are under (usually) more restrictive licenses.
posted by kmz at 11:20 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


So far, there's only notes on unofficial wikis, and the Youtube link smells like a fake account trying to look official (look at the Twitter and Tumblr links, as well as the "25 songs Glee should cover" videos the account has put up).

It was being sold on iTunes. Fox has since taken the link down in the U.S.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:21 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


(But yes, we perhaps-improperly consider Coulton to be One Of Us, and not One Of Them.)

I don't have a duck in this fight, but I'm glad this happened to a big-enough-but-not-huge somebody people knew (but would still get outraged over) versus an even lesser known artist who would get rolled over. This is the best possible scenario if this is going to happen at all.

(Well, my ideal scenario is that this would happen to a great cover in MeFi Music, but that's just because I'm a homer.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2013


This is an interesting situation that I'd really like to read a legal opinion on. Copyright is complicated.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:26 AM on January 18, 2013


Basically waiting for Lessig to weigh in on this one.
posted by zerolives at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


So...Fridays aren't "information wants to be free" days on Metafilter then? Good to know.

Here is a useful guideline to follow...maybe even a rule! If your comment contains a sentence of the form, "You know X, right?" or ends with "Good to know," when you don't really mean you've been given some good information that will be useful to you in the future, you are only adding noise and probably shouldn't comment at all!
posted by adamdschneider at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe it's that whole generation of internet users who don't respect IP rights and think everything copyrighted is free for the taking?

Gotcha. It's really not the large media corporation that's at fault, it's the damn kids on the intertubes who got no respect for anything.
posted by aught at 11:37 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Glee has copied arrangements before. For example their "Dancing With Myself" was a note for note copy of Nouvelle Vague's version.
posted by dnash at 11:42 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are folks on line who are checking to see whether Glee lifted some of JoCo's tracks, in addition to using his version of the song without asking. If they did use his actual tracks for some of their music, and have now been selling this on a compilation CD, it certainly sounds like infringement to me, although I am not even close to being a lawyer.

I do know that when my group has recorded a cover, we have had to go through acquisition of the mechanical license to do so, either through Harry Fox or directly through the artist.
posted by blurker at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2013


My first, emotional reaction was to be livid. This example seems to be such a blatant case of big Media crapping all over independent musicians just because they don't need to bother paying someone that "insignificant." And Glee was so lazy about the whole thing. Failing to catch the "Johnny-C" lyric reminds me of students who I catch plagiarizing when they fail to change the font of the text they cut and pasted into their papers. And Jonathan Coulton has always encouraged other people to remix his own songs, albeit not for profit, so he doesn't have a history of being overprotective of his work.

But I also know squat about copyright law and the differences between original compositions and arrangements. I assumed that since Coulton significantly altered Sir Mix-a-Lot's original version, adding his own melody and, in some cases lyrics, this new version would stand on its own as a separate creation. But this article, "Musical Arrangements and Copyright Law, draw a distinction between a "purely adaptive" arrangement and a "contributive" arrangement (which Coulton's would be), and says that, in the event someone wants to record a version of someone else's contributive arrangement: "if authorization is obtained from the owner of the copyright in the musical work, the negotiation leading to the authorization will typically also address whether or not the arranger will be granted any copyright ownership rights to the arrangement, and/or rights to receive a share of future revenues generated by additional use of the arrangement."

So I guess we don't know what rights Coulton actually has to his arrangement. But for a show that is purportedly about celebrating a group of people who revise and perform new versions of established material, stealing (or taking, or borrowing, or assimilating, or whatever) someone else's effort to do this same is just fucking hypocritical.
posted by bibliowench at 12:00 PM on January 18, 2013


If applicable, I would love to see this end up creating more case law in favor of creative commons licensing.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2013


(From Wikipedia's "cover version" article)

or recording of published tunes can fall under a mechanical license whereby the recording artist pays a standard royalty to the original author/copyright holder through an organization such as the Harry Fox Agency, and is safe under copyright law even if they do not have any permission from the original author.

Why is this situation so controversial? (Other than due to the parties involved) Seems like J.C. and Mix-a-Lot will be getting some (heretofore unexpected) royalty checks in the near future, nothing more.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2013


(Also, I don't hear the duck in the Glee version. Is it in the same place?)
posted by ShutterBun at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2013


When I was a kid I had a friend who used to call other kids he didn't like 'brace-face' even though he had braces himself. I asked him about it and he shrugged and said 'irrelevant'. I didn't really care that much because I didn't have braces and his sister was cute.

In hindsight I realized I was wrong. His sister wasn't that cute and I probably could have used braces.

Musical copyright makes about as much sense to me.
posted by srboisvert at 12:18 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obviously he was simply employing the "it takes one to know one" axiom preemptively.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:35 PM on January 18, 2013


I am not a copyright lawyer, but I feel like this is some serious bullshit from Glee. That's EXACTLY Coulton's arrangement, which is really, really different from the original work.
posted by KathrynT at 12:48 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


So...Fridays aren't "information wants to be free" days on Metafilter then? Good to know.

This isn't information. It's someone creative work, used to make money for the user of that work.
posted by dry white toast at 12:58 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoa, they even left in "Johnny C's in trouble..."!!!! Are they complete idiots?
posted by tristeza at 1:04 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's really only one worthwhile cover of "Baby Got Back": Gilbert and Sullivan Style!
posted by jammy at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I work with a lot of source code. People constantly "tweak" licences, and from the quality of the code they seem to be capable, intelligent people. It boggles my mind.

I get why this happens, because I've fallen into the trap myself. To a programmer, the law looks deterministic. Like just another programming language, where once you understand the syntax, you can easily write the code to get the outcome you want.
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Leaving the name of the artist you're stealing from in "your version" gives you an indication of the level of concern and respect they afforded Johnny C.

It's also a clue as to why Glee is such a steaming pile of shit.
posted by fullerine at 1:14 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK IAMNJCL (I am not Jonathan Coulton's Lawyer) though I did study copyright law at law school a few years ago.

This is, I think (not legal advice), fairly simple as long as you follow the chain of causation and what we know.

1. JC was authorised by "Mix-a-Lot" to make a cover version. (in some form - license here will be key to any future litigation, but seems to have been standard - someone who understands the industry will tell you better, but there seems little controversy here)

2.JC makes a derivative work that uses elements of the original song to make a new work. The copyright in that new work is property of JC.

3. Glee may or may not have obtained a license to make a derivative work (in whatever form, from) "Mix-a-Lot" but used an expression that was not original but was taken from the work of JC.

4. Glee owes JC (and possibly Mix-a-Lot) money (if he sues).
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoa, they even left in "Johnny C's in trouble..."!!!! Are they complete idiots?

I can only hope that the character's name is also Johnny C. No one on the entire set noticed that?
posted by gerryblog at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't really seem like Glee would be in the business of ripping off people they are covering, given that they do a half dozen covers a week.
posted by smackfu at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2013


I can only hope that the character's name is also Johnny C. No one on the entire set noticed that?

curmudgeon alert:
I'm pretty sure the song is older than the cast anyways, so they might not know it the same way that we do. Is Johnny C any weirder than Mix A Lot? Although the director or someone should have recognized.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2013


So it looks like iTunes in Sweden has a copy. I can't find it on the US side though.

The episode hasn't aired in the US yet, and they don't release the songs until after it airs.

Which makes this whole thing even more interesting. Glee (aka Fox) has not released this song in the US. They can easily cut the song out and never release it. Would Coulton have any recourse then?
posted by smackfu at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2013


I'm pretty sure the song is older than the cast anyways, so they might not know it the same way that we do. Is Johnny C any weirder than Mix A Lot? Although the director or someone should have recognized.


Though it's also quite possible that everybody on the artistic side of the equation would assume that they had (or would get) the relevant legal permissions. Because, you know, it's the not-dick thing to do and had done with many, many songs previously.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2013


Glee has done this with "covers of covers" before ("Dancing with Myself", "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", etc.) without attribution or permission. Why? Because it's not required. A lot of artists are understandably pissed off at being snubbed, but there doesn't seem to be any legal recourse.

Coulton's case is trickier because the melody is certainly his, but the lyrics aren't. His CC license only covers non-commercial use, but his publishing company could be compelled to grant a mechanical license with no input from Johnny C at all. Once he released his version, it became fair game to be covered by anyone who pays the licensing fee.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2013


his publishing company could be compelled to grant a mechanical license with no input from Johnny C at all.

He doesn't have a publishing company or label; all his music is self-released. So he could have been compelled to grant the license, sure, but he would have known about it.
posted by KathrynT at 1:38 PM on January 18, 2013


Actually, bibliowench linked to an article that suggests that unless the musician negotiated an arrangement with the owner of the original song at the time of licensing, they have zero ownership of anything in the new arrangement. And in fact, it suggests that since Coulton apparently only used the mechanical license, he may be the one in trouble if he changed the song and then released a recording, though the references are only to major changes in the lyrics, so I don't know if a new melody would also be considered to make the license invalid.
posted by tavella at 1:45 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


They can easily cut the song out and never release it. Would Coulton have any recourse then?

As squirmingly embarrassed as I am to admit it here, I am a part of the Glee fandom. So this I can maybe provide insight on.

According to spoilers received, the song introduces a character that is involved in a plot line with some significance to a major character*. The episode is scheduled to air this week, it probably wouldn't be so easy to acquire a new song and reshoot the number at this point.

*I hate to be vague but I am actually attempting not to spoil further than to explain why it wouldn't be so easy to eliminate the song.
posted by angeline at 1:48 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I always thought you didn't need permission to cover a song, you just had to make sure you pay the relevant royalties on sales.

In the US anyway.

Using actual tracks/samples would be another matter though.
posted by ODiV at 1:50 PM on January 18, 2013


FOX released the song on iIunes. They usually release them the Friday before the episode airs. They then pulled the song from iTunes, but not (or not as promptly) in Sweden--perhaps because it was already the weekend there?
posted by clauclauclaudia at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2013


And Nina Gordon was following Alanis Morissette's lead?

She might have been following the lead of Willis, who released a slowed-down female-vocal cover of Cameo's Word Up on her mini-album Take You High a year earlier.
posted by Hogshead at 2:17 PM on January 18, 2013


NoraReed: "Has anyone managed to successfully sue the pants off any corporations or companies for doing this?"
FSF v. Cisco
posted by brokkr at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Outside of the right to perform his arrangement live (secured via BMI or ASCAP) and the right to manufacture and distribute recordings of his arrangement (secured via Harry Fox) the only other rights to his arrangement that Coulton can claim exist purely according to whatever deal he specifically negotiated with the copyright holder of the original work. If no such deal exists, then Fox owes him nothing. Bupkis.

Sure, they could have been nice about it: thanked him for the idea, sent him a slushy and a free DVD, invited him to appear as an extra, or maybe even just put his name in the credits at the end of the show. But that would be a PR move, and nothing more. Legally, they don't have to do anything for him whatsoever. And like most giant corporations, nothing is exactly what they did.

On the other hand, Coulton seems likely to benefit from the publicity at least, so that's something.
posted by spilon at 3:06 PM on January 18, 2013


Alex Anders is one of the folks in charge of music for Glee, and well, he's...possibly not helping.

That link goes to a Tumblr post that displays a VagueTweet from Anders along with Coulton's response to it; a direct link to the Tweet itself is here.
posted by angeline at 3:32 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Halfway through this thread I remembered something: Harmonix wanted to put a Van Halen song in Guitar Hero 2, but Van Halen wasn't interested in giving permission for any song whatsoever. (This was long before Guitar Hero: Van Halen.)

Which is why Guitar Hero 2 allows you to play "You Really Got Me," which was fair game because it's originally a Kinks song, even though the GH2 version is a clear sound-alike of Van Halen's cover.

I mean, this is a half-remembered shard of facts from something online that I read like 5 years ago, so I'm no authority here. But supposing that all this is true, that Van Halen had no recourse to stop the inclusion of a sound-alike of their cover of "You Really Got Me" from a video game, then Coulton is in a near-identical situation, and may be out of luck.
posted by savetheclocktower at 3:33 PM on January 18, 2013


And the Glee folks have done nothing in terms of credit or compensation so far. Not to say that I know they were planning on being fair or anything, but the episode hasn't even aired yet and the YouTube video doesn't give credit to anyone at all including Coulton.

I wonder if their standard practice is to contact artists before doing covers of their work or if they only contact the rights holders or if they just stick to cutting cheques to who their lawyers say they should.
posted by ODiV at 3:42 PM on January 18, 2013


Seems like Jonathan Coulton didn't get a license (that was appropriate) to make his version of "Baby Got Back". The mechanical license Coulton obtained from Harry Fox does not cover the right to create a derivative work (which is what Coulton did).
As Coulton created a new melody to Mix-A-Lot's lyrics, Coulton does own the copyright to that melody. Although Glee/Fox did not need to ask Coulton's permission to use that melody, Glee/Fox does owe royalty payments to Coulton for the use of that melody (at the very least).
And Coulton owes some form of compensation/payment (at the very least) to Mix-A-Lot, since he did not have permission to create the derivative work.

(I work in music licensing. Not sure how much that means though.)
posted by aielen at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the Glee folks have done nothing in terms of credit or compensation so far. Not to say that I know they were planning on being fair or anything, but the episode hasn't even aired yet and the YouTube video doesn't give credit to anyone at all including Coulton.

Thaaaaaaaaaaaat's what I am wondering. It certainly sounds like no trouble was taken at all to disguise the arrangement (and the new lyrics), and the episode hasn't aired, and may not even exist beyond the musical number. I'd be a little surprised to learn that they went to the effort of recording the song before obtaining the rights, but it's not impossible that they wanted to present the song to the rights holder(s) when seeking the rights.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:09 PM on January 18, 2013


... Ok so if coulton didn't get an appropriate license he is probably SOL with regard to anything else in a court then, I totally missed that - makes the whole thing weird.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 4:10 PM on January 18, 2013


aielen: But Coulton didn't say mechanical license. He said he wrote a new melody and "I bought the statutory license to distribute my version of this song through Harry Fox." Are you sure that means mechanical license? I assumed it meant something different.
posted by clauclauclaudia at 4:14 PM on January 18, 2013


I suspect they'll pull this part out of the episode in the end. But would that get them out of trouble, or is it too late now that it hit the Internet?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:16 PM on January 18, 2013


Why would they pull it? *IF* FOX is at fault why wouldn't they just pay JoCo? (And a poster above indicates, while trying to avoid spoilers, that it's probably a scene that is integral to the episode.)
posted by clauclauclaudia at 4:24 PM on January 18, 2013


clauclaudia: From the Harry Fox faq that statutory license probably just means mechanical license, compensated at the statutory rate. So yeah, Coulton's almost certainly out of luck. Though obviously it's still damn rude behavior.
posted by tavella at 4:25 PM on January 18, 2013


clauclauclaudia: Harry Fox only deals in mechanical licenses - so I think that's what Coulton means (he's probably referring to the mechanical license which requires him to pay royalties at the statutory rate). In this other FAQ, Harry Fox also says they don't assist in obtaining permission for derivative works.

"A new version or arrangement of an existing song that alters the melody or character of the song, or a medley of existing songs, is called a derivative work. You need to obtain permission from the publisher directly to create a derivative work, and include that permission when you apply for a mechanical license using HFA's regular licensing form..."
posted by aielen at 4:31 PM on January 18, 2013


Wow, music licensing is complicated. It really looks like Coulton's version is not covered by the license he obtained. In which case.... What? He used the lyrics? So he would have needed explicit permission from Mix-a-Lot's publisher? It seems like there's no compulsory licensing scheme for appropriating lyrics to a different melody. Does Coulton's use of the lyrics count as parody? It seems like an argument could certainly be made...

So what's the copyright status of the melody he wrote? Can it stand on it's own without the lyrics? Is it subject to his CC license?

This really doesn't seem to be a matter of "arrangement". Coulton's version isn't simply an arrangement: it includes an original melody.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:41 PM on January 18, 2013


Why would they pull it?

I was thinking this, too- for all we know, the US version of the episode ends with "Arrangement by Jonathan Coulton, http://heres.the.website/" - it's a perfect storm of internet nerd issues, but we don't have to sail right into it yet, as exciting as that may be.
posted by maus at 5:49 PM on January 18, 2013


That would be some weird irony if all this internet detectivizing results in Coulton getting sued by both Mix-A-Lot and John Denver's estate. With the Hollies winning their suit over Creep sounding like Air That I Breathe, then Coulton is dead meat over Leaving On A Jet Plane.
posted by Ardiril at 6:42 PM on January 18, 2013


What about Coulton's karaoke track? Are there standard fees for "sampling" or is that by individual arrangement with the artist?

I use scare quotes because I don't think it makes sense to call it sampling if you use the entire work. ("We polled a 100% sample of voters and...")
posted by clauclauclaudia at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2013


What about Coulton's karaoke track?

I'm reasonably-certain that it's not his karaoke track, at least not the one available on YouTube. If you really can't hear the other differences, at least listen at 0:17-18ish (a bit later on the karaoke track) to the different picking patterns / banjo rolls on the Glee version that just don't exist in Coulton's version (bits are there, but half-buried in the left side).

Which is sort of revealing about the process of recreating the track (ie, it's not rocket science, but there's some art in it).
posted by uncleozzy at 7:34 PM on January 18, 2013


Here is a useful guideline to follow...maybe even a rule! If your comment contains a sentence of the form, "You know X, right?" or ends with "Good to know," when you don't really mean you've been given some good information that will be useful to you in the future, you are only adding noise and probably shouldn't comment at all!

Good to know!
posted by layceepee at 11:09 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


http://bgrevln8fu.tumblr.com/post/40870233855

Here's a side by side comparison of the two tracks. I was astonished.
posted by jaduncan at 11:21 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've been listening to the link jaduncan posted and it's tricky--the banjo's much more prominent in the left (JoCo) channel--but I can't hear the slightest variation in the instrumentals except for volume.

I *was* trying to listen to the YouTube version posted there by joecovenantlamb, so I'd have timestamps to cite, but my phone's YouTube app or some other part of the chain mono-izes the sound, so that's no help.

Thanks for all the knowledgeable responses on the IP questions. I'm still curious, though--if they *did* incorporate JoCo's track, what rights would be have regarding that?
posted by clauclauclaudia at 7:12 AM on January 19, 2013


Sorry for doubling, but I found a version with time stamps *and*stereo separation: http://m.soundcloud.com/alacrion/joco-v-glee
posted by clauclauclaudia at 7:43 AM on January 19, 2013


I'm still curious, though--if they *did* incorporate JoCo's track, what rights would be have regarding that?

Even if he doesn't have any legal rights over the writing, he still absolutely owns the recording.

Unless... *checks YouTube's Terms and Conditions*
posted by Sys Rq at 9:39 AM on January 19, 2013


Ardiril: Coulton has been keeping up his share of payments to Mix-A-Lot, right?
Apples to oranges. Coulton clearly made a parody: he took a funny, uptempo rap song and transformed it into a romantic ballad style. Parodies are specifically exempt from copyright infringement.

Glee simply had other singers sing his words, using his exact musical sheet and props. Not parody; not protected.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:30 AM on January 19, 2013


progosk: Coulton stole the idea from Nina Gordon - so....
Orange Pamplemousse: And Nina Gordon was following Alanis Morissette's lead?
An idea isn't copyrightable so your points are completely irrelevant.

Honestly, are you actually pretending that stealing the note-for-note musical score is the same thing as having two pieces with vaguely similar ideas behind them?
posted by IAmBroom at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2013


Seems to me like this all depends on two issues:

1. Whether Coulton got the kind of license that allows him to create and retain rights over his own derivative work. He did get a license, but I'm learning that these things are twisty and Byzantine and he may have had to get some kind of other licence. Coulton's gone radio silent on the whole issue (which is probably wise), so we don't actually know about this one. There are a lot of internet lawyers, as well as actual lawyers posting on the internet, who are looking at his statement about the license he got from Harry Fox, but in my reading that statement isn't definitive.

2. Whether Glee went so far as to actually use his recorded tracks in their mix. Coulton released the song as a complete mix with vocals, a karaoke music-minus-one mix, AND as each separate instrumental track broken out. I'm not an audio engineer, but there's a tuning idiosyncrasy in the mandolin track that to my ears is the same in the Glee version and Coulton's track. I'm trying to find HQ versions of the individual instruments to compare further, as well as get an actual recording person to listen.
posted by KathrynT at 11:42 AM on January 19, 2013


AND as each separate instrumental track broken out

Ohhh boy. That I didn't know.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:19 PM on January 19, 2013


> Apples to oranges. Coulton clearly made a parody: he took a funny, uptempo rap song and transformed it into a romantic ballad style. Parodies are specifically exempt from copyright infringement.

It's worth pointing out that whether or not Coulton's version is a parody would ultimately fall to a court to decide. The Supreme Court has said that for something to qualify as a parody for fair use purposes, it must provide (at least in part) some commentary on the original work.

In a 2007 case the Ninth Circuit denied a fair use defense for a book called The Cat NOT in the Hat! A Parody by Dr. Juice, which purported to be a parody of The Cat in the Hat, but whose subject matter was O.J. Simpson. The court held that this wasn't a parody of The Cat in the Hat because it wasn't a commentary on the original work — thus it was infringing.

My point: if it ever got as far as a courtroom, a judge would have to consider whether a mere genre change is enough to count as "commentary" and qualify a song for the fair-use-by-parody defense. I doubt it would get that far, but I hope I'm wrong, because I want to read an opinion in which Dynamite Hack's cover of Boyz-n-the-Hood is cited as supporting evidence for a claim.

(Whether Coulton's version is a derivative work appears to be a separate issue altogether. The different melody is a confounding variable.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:37 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Inevitable Downfall parody, which pretty much recapitulates this thread.
posted by immlass at 6:22 PM on January 19, 2013


IAmBroom, I didn't think progosk and Orange Pamplemousse were trying to make a point. I assumed they were aiming for light humor and a chance to share similar songs with people who might appreciate them.
posted by harriet vane at 10:38 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


KathrynT: The results, afaik, are not public, but see twitter convo between @JackVentimiglia and @jonathancoulton -- Jack is a sound engineer and says he managed to basically cancel out the instruments from one track with the other.
posted by clauclauclaudia at 8:22 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


How many of the people who slammed FOX for not crediting JoCo are going to jump JoCo's shit if it turns out he really didn't get the proper licensing for his version? Not many is my bet.
posted by Justinian at 12:39 PM on January 20, 2013


I will, if that makes you feel any better.
posted by aramaic at 1:41 PM on January 20, 2013


Justinian, I think there's a difference between getting the wrong kind of license by accident and lifting someone else's work on purpose. JoCo released this song eight years ago, before all his big success, when he didn't have a lot of legal resources, and it seems like what kind of license he needed to get is a pretty abstruse question. I've read statements from IP lawyers saying both "He's absolutely covered" and "He's absolutely fucked;" if he made the wrong choice in good faith, then he might not have any legal recourse, but I don't think it's a major ethical breach.

Glee, on the other hand, is a massively funded show in its fourth season, with an entire team of lawyers whose only job is to correctly and successfully navigate clearing the rights to the music they use, which is often in radically different interpretations than the original performances. I think the bar for their ethical responsibility here is a teensy bit higher than that of a guy who quit his day job four months ago to see if he could make a go of this music thing.
posted by KathrynT at 2:24 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


> Glee, on the other hand, is a massively funded show in its fourth season, with an entire team of lawyers whose only job is to correctly and successfully navigate clearing the rights to the music they use

...and to assess risk scenarios, too. I'm betting that the legal team okayed this because the worst case scenario is pretty much a belated paycheck and apology to Coulton. Coulton is unlikely to sue if Fox acknowledges their "lapse." This isn't going to hurt Glee's brand badly enough for them to worry about it. The occasional settlement is the cost of doing business.
posted by desuetude at 6:57 PM on January 20, 2013


From the sound Coulton's tweet, I'm not sure much of a paycheck or an apology is in the offing.
posted by gladly at 7:43 PM on January 24, 2013


So the episode is (was?) tonight?
posted by ODiV at 8:10 PM on January 24, 2013


From what I can tell, the version that was aired on Glee tonight cut out a few of the identifying characteristics that were on the first Glee version discussed above. It's not 100% the same (though I haven't done a thorough side-by-side). Whether it was a frantic last minute re-edit or not, your call. Here's the aired version on YouTube which they've officially posted, and since it's up I assume Fox/Glee have no legal concerns about it.
posted by girlhacker at 1:13 AM on January 25, 2013


It's not 100% the same

I made it most of the way through, and on first-listen, it sounds identical to me (although it's obviously a different edit, with much of the song removed, presumably for time). I still don't think they used Coulton's instrumental (unless it's a very good remix [and probably re-arrangement] of the individual tracks; there are just too many differences).

If somebody actually got the audio to phase-cancel, though, I'd like to hear it, because I don't buy it. (I actually would like to be proven wrong here.)
posted by uncleozzy at 5:17 AM on January 25, 2013


This should all end with Coulton getting paid and then appearing on Glee as the cool science teacher who teaches the kids about the dangers of rainbow parties or something.
posted by drezdn at 5:39 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


girlhacker: From what I can tell, the version that was aired on Glee tonight cut out a few of the identifying characteristics that were on the first Glee version discussed above.

They may have made minor changes in the aired version, but the version that's now back in the US iTunes store sounds a lot like what was first posted (at least, in the one minute preview you can listen to).
posted by hanov3r at 6:03 AM on January 25, 2013


This probably all worked out exactly how you think it would:

1. Fox said "we don't need your permission since we have the original artist's permission".
2. Coulton talked to a lawyer who said it wasn't an open-and-shut case, and damages would be limited.
3. Indie musician can't take the risk of spending money on lawyers suing a mega-corp.
4. The end.
posted by smackfu at 6:07 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]




The "exposure" thing drives me crazy. It's like they think he's some kid who threw something together in GarageBand. Hey, one of the most successful independent musicians in America, have some free exposure to morons.

Does releasing anything under Creative Commons really have any enforceable power? Other than a lot of people on the internet all nodding in-agreement, does a CC statement really mean squat legally?

I work at CC, and meaning squat legally is kind of our jam.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:54 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


uncleozzy: “I made it most of the way through, and on first-listen, it sounds identical to me (although it's obviously a different edit, with much of the song removed, presumably for time). I still don't think they used Coulton's instrumental (unless it's a very good remix [and probably re-arrangement] of the individual tracks; there are just too many differences). If somebody actually got the audio to phase-cancel, though, I'd like to hear it, because I don't buy it. (I actually would like to be proven wrong here.)”

I thought sounded different on first listen myself, but I was a bit shocked to hear the similarity when compared directly side-by-side as this guy did. It's not phase-canceling, but it's the next best thing, and surprisingly similar. Now I'm convinced they did use the same backing track, and I'm a little amazed at that given the budget and musicians Glee has at their disposal.
posted by koeselitz at 6:06 PM on January 25, 2013


I mean - even the minimal drum track lines up perfectly between the two versions. The only differences are vocal - the Glee version has some layered vocals that make it sound slightly more filled-out. But the instrumental track sounds identical, down to string-plucks. It would be extraordinarily difficult to duplicate at that level, since we're not just talking about arrangement, we're actually talking about plucks of strings and strumming patterns – and I don't know why you'd even want to if varying the track in little ways were in your best interest (as it clearly was for the Glee people here).
posted by koeselitz at 6:11 PM on January 25, 2013


Huh. The episode description on Hulu mentions Coulton.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:18 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Revamps and Coulton-izes Baby Got Back".

Uhh. Pretty sure that's what Coulton did in the first place, and you just copy-pasted the instrumentals over your autotuned screeching.
posted by kafziel at 6:50 PM on January 27, 2013


> 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."

If I squint and set aside my appreciation for the creative skill required to devise a new arrangement, I can see how this policy makes sense from a "letter of the law" perspective. But this policy does not really jibe at all with a "cover" that is actually a parody and includes new lyrics and melody, and it seems odd to me to cop such a simplistic stance that goes against common sense. (IANAL.)

FWIW, while I count HUGE fans of Mr. Coulton among my friends and I respect his thing, I'm not a giant fan personally -- I'm kinda vaguely positive neutral with an occasional "aww, yeah, that IS too cute."
posted by desuetude at 11:31 PM on January 27, 2013


Jonathan Coulton has released 'Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)' on itunes et al, a new cover of Glee's cover of his cover of Baby Got Back. In other words, exactly the same as his original release.

He's also donating all the proceeds for the next month (after Harry Fox licensing fees to Sir Mix-a-lot) to charity.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:16 AM on January 28, 2013


(it's already passed all the episode 11 Glee songs in popularity on itunes)
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:24 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


But this policy does not really jibe at all with a "cover" that is actually a parody and includes new lyrics and melody, and it seems odd to me to cop such a simplistic stance that goes against common sense. (IANAL.)

I think a lot of this stuff is just practical. If every person who does a cover gets rights to their tweaks on the original song, it basically becomes impossible to keep track of, and anyone doing a future cover is doing so in a minefield. It would kill off releasing cover versions.
posted by smackfu at 7:29 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


smackfu: And it would be very easy for someone to box in a super-popular hit; do the obvious variations: acoustic, orchestral, choral, etc, and then sue anyone else who did the same. They'd lessen the value of the original IP, because people would be less likely to do a cover if they had to pay people twice. So it makes sense that you have to actively negotiate a license that would allow you to claim any kind of transformative rights.
posted by tavella at 11:55 AM on January 28, 2013


> I think a lot of this stuff is just practical. If every person who does a cover gets rights to their tweaks on the original song, it basically becomes impossible to keep track of, and anyone doing a future cover is doing so in a minefield. It would kill off releasing cover versions.

I'm not talking about rights, I was referring to Fox's "general policy" on covers.
posted by desuetude at 11:28 AM on January 29, 2013


Sir Mix-A-Lot was on KUOW today talking about social media and this came up; it starts around 48 minutes in (that's John Roderick talking at the beginning). Unfortunately he says his manager has asked him not to talk about it, so there isn't a whole lot there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:59 PM on January 29, 2013


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