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

Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05

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



Linky Linky
"I think Glee is way too sharp, smart, witty, clever and emotionally confronting for the masses." - Dave19 - "What's next? Snow Black and the 7 Swaggers? Shasquirta and the Beast? 101 Weavematians? Willis in Ghettoland?" - Dave19, in reference to the new ANNIE remake.
Updated On: 1/27/13 at 12:46 PM
TrulyOutrageousJem
Chorus Member
joined:7/10/12
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
"Fans of indie musician Jonathan Coulton were incensed last week..." Really? BOTH of them?

Call this guy a whambulance.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
Oh my God, Joe. I've been using that line all week!
"I think Glee is way too sharp, smart, witty, clever and emotionally confronting for the masses." - Dave19 - "What's next? Snow Black and the 7 Swaggers? Shasquirta and the Beast? 101 Weavematians? Willis in Ghettoland?" - Dave19, in reference to the new ANNIE remake.
LYLS3637
Featured Actor
joined:5/1/09
It's not like they Vanilla Ice-d him.
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
I'd really think people would be more responsive to this story on here. Oh well. Bitchiness takes precedence.
choitoy
Broadway Star
joined:12/12/07
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.
Xanadu! Can't cry on cue!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
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.
Addison D.
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/12
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.

You think, what do you want? You think, make a decision...
Updated On: 1/27/13 at 02:32 PM
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
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.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
Isn't a cover song already a "rip-off?" I don't get it.
That's right! Underscore mother-fu@#ers!
JP2
Broadway Legend
joined:6/2/07
No one gets up in arms when IDOL contestants steal arrangements of covers and then get praised for their originality by the judges.
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
"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.
Jungle Red
Broadway Legend
joined:8/13/12
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.
"Bill Clinton is the ultimate whore! He stole Madonna's crown." -Jim Colyer, on 10/29/2012
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
Kad, I thought the Idol contestants songs went up on iTunes after they perform each week?
"I think Glee is way too sharp, smart, witty, clever and emotionally confronting for the masses." - Dave19 - "What's next? Snow Black and the 7 Swaggers? Shasquirta and the Beast? 101 Weavematians? Willis in Ghettoland?" - Dave19, in reference to the new ANNIE remake.
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
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.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
SporkGoddess
Broadway Legend
joined:7/27/05
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.
Jimmy, what are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM!
winston89
Broadway Legend
joined:6/18/06
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.
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
JP2
Broadway Legend
joined:6/2/07
"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!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
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.
canmark
Broadway Legend
joined:3/14/07
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.
Coach Bob knew it all along: you've got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. You have to keep passing the open windows. (John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire)
Updated On: 1/27/13 at 05:22 PM
everythingtaboo
Broadway Legend
joined:5/5/04
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.



"Hey little girls, look at all the men in shiny shirts and no wives!" - Jackie Hoffman, Xanadu, 19 Feb 2008
sabrelady
Broadway Legend
joined:5/16/03
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.
Words that confuse censors:Fecund,penal,taint, titmouse, cockatoo,coccyx, ballcock, cockeye, prickly,kumquat, titter,cunning linguist, insertion, gobble, guzzle, swallow, manhole, rimshot,ramrod,come, fallacious, lugubrious,rectify,Uranus, angina, paradiddle,spotted dick,dictum, frock,cunctation, engorge,turgid,stiff, bush, uvula, crapulence, masticate, Dick Butkus, gherkin and of course the always bewildering lickety split. As you can see, context is every thing. Chuck Lorre Addendum: 555 382 5968 "Sexarama, Hexarama, Queeriosis, Feariosis!" Alec Baldwin
trentsketch
Broadway Legend
joined:6/25/09
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.
winston89
Broadway Legend
joined:6/18/06
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.
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
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"?
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.

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