Printer Friendly - Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone


Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Jordan Catalano 2013-01-27 12:46:36



I think this is a really interesting look at how GLEE finds it's music.


Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by TrulyOutrageousJem 2013-01-27 12:50:51


blah blah blah wah wah wah

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by JoeKv99 2013-01-27 13:19:10


"Fans of indie musician Jonathan Coulton were incensed last week..." Really? BOTH of them?

Call this guy a whambulance.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Jordan Catalano 2013-01-27 13:20:33


Oh my God, Joe. I've been using that line all week!

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by LYLS3637 2013-01-27 13:36:05


It's not like they Vanilla Ice-d him.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Kad 2013-01-27 13:37:17


I'd really think people would be more responsive to this story on here. Oh well. Bitchiness takes precedence.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by choitoy 2013-01-27 13:48:45


That's right, Kad. It would seem that if orchestrations for musicals get changed around, or if we don't credit the orchestrator at all here, it gets bitched about. But if it's arrangements for a pop song on "Glee", everyone is "meh" about it...

I feel sorry for the guy. If it's any consolation to Mr. Coulton, I've listened to his version and the "Glee" cover of his version, and I have to say, I like Mr. Coulton's voice better. I'll support him by buying his version of the song on iTunes.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Kad 2013-01-27 13:55:30


Coulton actually released a new version of his cover, "in the style of Glee", with proceeds going to VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and the It Gets Better Project.

And Coulton is a pretty great musician in his own right. Quirky, nerdy, and often very funny songwriting, in the same vein as They Might Be Giants, though less abstract.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Addison D. 2013-01-27 14:32:32


Interesting and illuminating. Two things strike me--

"Fox’s hard-nosed, corporate disregard for the work of an independent musician seems ironic particularly in the context of Glee, a television show whose core themes have so often revolved around the plight — and triumph — of the underdog. “If this were an episode of Glee I would win. The way they’re behaving is so antithetical to the message of their show,” Coulton told Wired."

While there is (sometimes) more subtlety than the days when Gracie Allen would offer Harry Morton "A delicious cup of Maxwell House coffee--it's so invigorating: I can't imagine starting the day without it", the fact is that television networks EXIST to sell advertising. Not tell stories, not support underdogs, not warm hearts or heal souls. To think or expect otherwise strikes me as naiive, at least.

I know that I am hopelessly antediluvian, but--while I do sincerely empathize with Coulter--I can't help but wonder at the outrage about Fair Use coming from artists whose work consists of simply re-mixing other artists' original work.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by JoeKv99 2013-01-27 15:07:55


So what am I supposed to be outraged about? The artist that actually wrote the song got paid. He's getting a ton of exposure. This cost him nothing and maybe will make him some money. If he had a case he'd be suing the pants off them.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by CATSNYrevival 2013-01-27 15:23:14


Isn't a cover song already a "rip-off?" I don't get it.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by JP2 2013-01-27 15:23:21


No one gets up in arms when IDOL contestants steal arrangements of covers and then get praised for their originality by the judges.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Kad 2013-01-27 15:26:23


"He's getting a ton of exposure. This cost him nothing and maybe will make him some money. If he had a case he'd be suing the pants off them."

He's only getting exposure because he said, "Hey, that's mine." Fox refused to credit him and told him to be happy they did it at all.

And Idol contestants aren't selling records yet.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Jungle Red 2013-01-27 15:50:15


Didn't Adam Lambert get into some trouble for not crediting the bands he stole from? I'm not wording that correctly. I do remember he did some "original" arrangements that turned out to be copies of lesser-known covers.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Jordan Catalano 2013-01-27 15:53:42


Kad, I thought the Idol contestants songs went up on iTunes after they perform each week?

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by JoeKv99 2013-01-27 15:57:12


Seriously, what "credit" does he deserve? "We're covering this song because we heard this other guy cover it"? HE DIDN'T WRITE IT. His "contribution" was to slow it down. Cover artists don't get to copyright the idea of singing someone's song.

Yes, he covered Baby Got Back. Now Glee covered Baby Got Back. Now he's managed to get people to write articles about that. That's about the best he can expect.

In Lambert's case I think the trouble arose because Idol framed it as "He came up with this amazing arrangement" when it was not his arrangement. Even so, nothing came of it.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by SporkGoddess 2013-01-27 16:12:58


I was under the impression that Coulton wrote a new melody but used the same lyrics. However, the license that he obtained stipulates that any royalties/credit for using his version should go to the original artist, which it did.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by winston89 2013-01-27 16:16:00


Kad is right, Coulton is only getting exposure because he called Fox out. If he did not do that, then this whole thing would have gotten swept under the rug.

Coulton isn't asking for a royalties check for his song. He is however asking Ryan Murphy to give credit where it's due and to have given him some credit for the arrangement that he had come up with. There is nothing wrong with that. It would be a whole different story if Glee did Baby Got Back in the style it was originally done. It doesn't matter if Coulton can sue or not. This just gets added to the pile of why I feel that Ryan Murphy's view of getting music for his show reeks to high heaven.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by JP2 2013-01-27 16:28:15


"And Idol contestants aren't selling records yet."

They record studio versions of their covers and sell them on iTunes.


And the Glee cover of Baby Got back is literally the same exact arrangement/melody as this guys song. He even changed a few words, and Glee used the same ones!

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Kad 2013-01-27 17:01:40


I stand corrected in re: Idol.

Just because something is legal doesn't mean it's ethical. Coulton's pointing out the slack ethics of Glee's producers, who made bank on a show all about the underdog and then take the work of others and essentially say, "You should be happy we even stooped to acknowledge your work." And it would appear this is not the first time.

If Fox was as brazen as they were about incorporating Coulton's revised lyric (which references *himself*) and cover arrangements and actually sampled Coulton's track, they could see a lawsuit.

And this dismissal of "it's only a cover"- which is implicitly saying that it is a lesser work and worthy of lesser consideration- is nonsense. I see it as being no different than a an original production and a revival of a play- both valid and artistically unique expressions of a source material.

Coulton did his own artistic work on the cover and deserves at the least credit when it's used.

Granted, this extension of copyright law is still murky- as it has been when applied to lawsuits about theatrical productions allegedly using direction/etc.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by canmark 2013-01-27 17:22:41


Cheap move by Glee/FOX. They basically stole this guy's arrangement and made it appear like their own (they didn't even bother to change it a bit here and there to make it seem different!). And probably they did this because they don't want him to have any claim to the monies they make selling the song on iTunes.

Poor guy--stuck by the Man.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by everythingtaboo 2013-01-27 18:24:45


Is it wrong? Yes. But Glee, X-Factor, Idol, it happens to all those shows (I guess just because they use so much music on that network.) For example, the Let's Have a Kiki choreographer was up in arms last month because he wanted credit. Glee uses particular arrangements all the time, complete with corresponding lyrics. When they do showtunes, they'll often use the movie version arrangements. They should give some sort of credit, but they probably want to keep royalty costs down, so they count it as "inspiration." Credit, whether unspoken or not, means money.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by sabrelady 2013-01-27 19:10:08


This from Chuck Lorre ( yes he isn't hurting 4 $$ now) about being musically ripped off :

"Co-write theme song for new animated series called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The show is a massive international success. The music publisher tells my partner and I that we will not be paid music royalties for the millions of video games and video cassettes being sold. The reason we are given is that they'd rather not pay us.

Not funny then, still not funny."

Oh and he did the voiceover too.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by trentsketch 2013-01-27 19:36:25


Coulton wrote a new arrangement and, more importantly, a melody for a rap song without a melody. Fox is attempting to bully him out of taking legal action over his original melody.

Now, here's the problem. Since he never copyrighted the arrangement with the courts, he has a big uphill battle for an actual legal case against Fox. His mechanical license only proves he recorded the song. It does not prove that he added enough value to the cover song to be unique enough for its own copyright. That's what he would have to prove in court to get Fox to pay up.

It's why that guy that can prove Chris Martin saw his show and stole one of his songs for Coldplay doesn't have a leg to stand on. He was an indie artist who didn't pay copyright his work. Technically, you have a copyright as soon as you create something novel. The only way to guarantee legal protection is to register it. Neither of these artists did this.

As for the Idol argument, I'm one of the jerks who informs people of where Idol is stealing arrangements from. A few of the contestants have been confronted in interviews about stealing arrangements and they can never explain it other than "I liked it so I did it." Its not their fault Fox, as a policy, does not give credit to the arrangers it steals from.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by winston89 2013-01-27 20:39:01


The thing about music copyright law is that it is very complicated. There are three copyrights in play that we are talking about here. The first is the copyright for the music and lyrics in and of themselves. Secondly, there is the copyright for the recording of the song. Typically, if you're covering a song you'd pay money to either ASCAP or BMI, the two big clearing houses for recorded music. And, the third copyright is the one that Coulton has for his own arraignment of the song.

It doesn't matter of Coulton copyrighted his version of the song. The song is copyrighted by virtue of him creating his own version of it and recording it. If this goes to court (as it should) Coulton would have an easy win.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by JoeKv99 2013-01-27 21:35:43


Katie Perry recorded Teen Age Dream. She didn't write, it but it surely got popular because of HER recording. Glee covered it- same arrangement, just a different vocalist. Does she deserve "credit"?

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Kad 2013-01-28 00:54:39


Katy Perry is listed in the credits for The Warbler album, according to AllMusic.com, as composer. She appears to have composer rights to the song, despite being one of five listed composers (it took five people to write it?). So she'll get credit and all the perks that go with it no matter who performs it or how they perform it, apparently.

But you're deliberately being dismissive of this. Coulton didn't just sing the song again- he put work into it and revised it.

Cover versions of songs don't have copyright protection in the US, regardless of what the artist does with them. If it can be shown that an artist's cover of the song is sufficiently different from the creator's copyrighted version, it should likewise be able to be protected.

Fox has found a nifty loophole- they can now take arrangements that cannot be copyrighted, and only pay whomever holds the song's rights. Which is, in my opinion, just legal thievery.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Wynbish 2013-01-28 00:58:18


Does anyone know if they credited John Legend for doing his version of Rolling in the Deep?

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Kad 2013-01-28 01:03:24


It would appear not, according to AllMusic. But take that for what it's worth- it doesn't list Adele or Paul Epsworth, the credited composers, either.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by bjh2114 2013-01-28 01:22:11


"Call this guy a whambulance."

Oh my God, Joe. I've been using that line all week!

Is it because it was on Modern Family last week?

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by ClumsyDude15 2013-01-28 03:28:23


Shouldn't the fact that the performance of the song being done was terrible make him feel a little better? I mean, yes - it does suck that they've done this to him (and many others like him), but as many have pointed out they've gotten good at loop-holing the whole situation. I remember when the gentlemen had his version of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" used during season three, and I remembered it because it was also featured in Confessions of A Shopaholic, and I felt for the guy, but FOX and Glee has gotten very good at playing this game, and they've seemed to found themselves victorious despite the backlash they'll feel from what they did to this guy with Baby Got Back. ..All this over a round thing in your face? Sprung, indeed.

On the flip side of this, Glee used the version of "Smooth Criminal" done by 2Cellos and had them play it while Naya Rivera and Grant Gustin sang it on the show. So, yes - they've screwed many an artist, but they did give 2Cellos the credit and exposure they deserved for their version of the Michael Jackson classic.





Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by adam.peterson44 2013-01-28 06:11:08


This is a bit of a thread hijack, but the Glee performance reminded me of my all-time favorite version of baby got back, which is the Gilbert and Sullivan-style version (there is a video of it on that video website). Brilliance!

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Dave19 2013-01-28 06:53:02


The guy covered a song in the first place, so he doesn't have any rights to complain. Sure, it's frustrating if someone uses your new arrangement of the cover song, but unless you copyright the arrangement with the courts, you have nothing.

I guess a lot of artists nowadays just lack originality, and they consider "new touches" on existing songs as something really special and groundbreaking. Well, it's not.

The only thing he can do is put a text over his video saying "I was the first one that covered this song with this arrangement", to avoid thousands of comments like "Hey, you covered the Glee song!"



Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by jaqs 2013-01-28 09:10:53


I felt far more upset for the guy who had his choreography ripped off.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by trentsketch 2013-01-28 09:55:31


"Sure, it's frustrating if someone uses your new arrangement of the cover song, but unless you copyright the arrangement with the courts, you have nothing.

Read more: http://broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.php?thread=1055883&page=2#ixzz2JHYGQWDC"

Not true. If the arrangement is novel enough, he has a copyright from creation. That's especially true here since he wrote an actual melody to a spoken word rap song.

The reason he will struggle if he attempts legal action is that he did not register the copyright. Registration doesn't make your creation more or less valid, it just makes it easier within the US legal system to prove there has been an infringement. The actual registered copyright is kind of a legal stamp that the court has to acknowledge is the legal date of creation. Without the registered copyright, Coulton has to prove that he created the arrangement, when he created it, and that Glee stole his arrangement. A registered copyright would shift the entire battle to trying to prove Glee stole the arrangement.

And for what it's worth, the article linked at the start of the thread includes how people have matched up the special effects used on Glee with the same exact special effects on Coulton's recording. It looks like they ripped his vocal off the recording and had their performers record over his actual arrangement. That's the big problem here. Unless there is legal precedent for not having to license an actual recording for another recording because of IPR loopholes, the argument of "Oh well, he can't complain because it's just a cover" doesn't actually apply.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by darquegk 2013-01-28 10:33:42


I BELIEVE it is common practice for Glee to use a studio band to record a "soundalike" track, not use original artist tracks.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by JoeKv99 2013-01-28 11:58:40


"Baby Got back" is not spoken word and rap songs have melodies.

I am appalled that Katy Perry got a songwriter credit for "teenage dream." If you want to whip up outrage over that I'm with you.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by jonathan_r 2013-01-30 14:33:48


Thank you!

Even in posts sympathetic to him, this has been missing. The "song" wasn't sung before. It was rapped. The melody is Jonathan Coulton's, not Sir Mix-A-Lot's. That is not a cover.

And thank you for hitting the other important point, that they utterly ripped the recording verbatim. If it is, in fact, not sampled, then someone, somewhere, played that guitar part with the intent of sounding just like Jonathan Coulton. It's plausible, but would, indeed, be intentional.

That's a very important point, that's, apparently, easily missed. This isn't about it's being a cover song at all. And, if, as glibly stated above, Jonathan Coulton only had two fans, one of them is a Fox shill with a long reach.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by Mister Matt 2013-01-30 15:01:05


I guess a lot of artists nowadays just lack originality, and they consider "new touches" on existing songs as something really special and groundbreaking. Well, it's not.

Oh, sometimes it really is. There are covers that reinterpret the original material to the point that it provides a different perspective. And that is an art that requires talent.

I heard the new lounge cover of "Beat It" recently (Cris Delanno, I think?) and while I found it odd, I also realized how the new mood of the song seemed to alter the lyrics with a different intent. I thought it was fascinating.

But there's nothing "nowadays" about it. Covers are as old as popular music has been around. I mean, The Platters certainly didn't write "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and it didn't sound like their interpretation onstage in Roberta in 1933.

Jonathan Coulton Explains How GLEE Ripped Off His Cover Song - And Why He's Not Alone
Posted by winston89 2013-01-30 16:41:15


trentsketch

You were partially correct about something. You were right to say that Coulton's song is copyrighted just from being recorded. However, the part where you're incorrect is that he has to register it with the courts. If he were to take legal action against fox, there is a good chance, that because his song is copyrighted, that he would win if he were to sue fox for copyright infringement. This is of course regardless if he registered anything with the courts or not.