‘Glee’ Ripped Off Jonathan Coulton And Said He Should Be “Happy For The Exposure”

Advance warning: This story might make you want to put your fist through the wall. I recommend pulling up the Puppy Bowl live cam in an open tab to help you remain calm. First, a little backstory from last week:

Musician Jonathan Coulton, best known for his geek-friendly tunes like “Code Monkey” and the two (amazing) theme songs for the Portal videogames, got a bit of a surprise this morning when a Twitter follower sent him a video that appeared to be a Glee version of the Sir Mix-A-Lot song “Baby Got Back.” The problem? It was almost identical to Coulton’s very distinctive cover arrangement of the same song on his 2005 album Thing a Week One.

“I assume [Glee] heard [my cover] and wanted to put it in their show. Which is flattering, but also an email would have been nice — just a hi, howya doin’ kind of thing,” Coulton told Wired by e-mail. [Wired]

Coulton made a stink about the whole thing, justifiably so, and it set off a bit of an Internet firestorm, with people rallying around him and trying to get Fox to either pull the song or acknowledge that they were using Coulton’s version. Despite this, last night when Glee returned from their winter hiatus they went right ahead and aired the episode containing the song with no attribution whatsoever, and when Fox finally contacted Coulton they essentially told him he should be “happy for the exposure.” From Coulton’s blog:

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.

The reason Coulton might not have any legal claim here, very basically, is because he just licensed “Baby Got Back” from Sir Mix-a-Lot — who still owns the rights to the song, presumably — for the cover on his album. (Although anything he added to the song in making the cover would be his, which is the point he’s referencing in the blog post.) And he’s not the only one who’s been on the crap end of this stick.

The two versions are below. Listen to them and judge for yourself. Then go look at those puppies.

(Via Daily Dot)