Hey, do you still watch #Glee? They do clever songs sometimes, right? Well, last night they aired a very clever banjo-y cover of Sir Mix-Alot’s “Baby Got Back” that people seemed to love. The only problem is, the arrangement they used (and possibly the actual recorded track) was created several years ago by my pal, Jonathan Coulton.
Legally, Jonathan is probably in a tricky position. Is there Intellectual Property precedent sufficient for him to recoup compensation on his original arrangement of a cover tune that he properly licensed in the first place? Would it even be worthwhile for a small, independent musician to pursue legal action against a huge company like Fox that keeps a lawyer in every office for their executives to hang their coats and hats on until something like this comes up? Does the fact that it’s tricky and sticky make what was done to Jonathan okay?
As a person who tries to make a living working in TV, it’s probably not even that smart for me to be piping up about this. I’m sure I’ll be put on some “Do Not Ever Hire These Bigmouths” list. But what’s right is right, and just because something might possibly be “technically sort of legal if you squint” doesn’t mean that it was okay. The show that postures itself as sticking up for underdogs and music geeks and telling kids that if they are daring and original it will pay off, is actually being a cartoon-style bully.
It would have been no skin off Glee’s nose to either notify/ask permission or even handsomely compensate Jonathan for his hard work, perhaps by giving him a cut of their staff “musical arrangement” guy’s salary for that week and a portion of the proceeds from the downloads of the singles Glee is selling on iTunes of “their” version.
Speaking of the two versions, here they are, mashed-up, alternating not every few measures, but beat by beat. Maybe the reason Glee hasn’t said anything is that it would be impossible to defend or deny. http://musicmachinery.com/2013/01/25/joco-vs-glee/
There are probably others; how would we know?
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- sexandfoodand said: I had already dropped Glee because my gut reaction was, “ugh, stop jerking around my general sympathy for the underdog and specific hope for the LBGT community in your inauthentic, pretentious “homage” to excellent music. NOT surprised!
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- farmpuma said: Nope, I don’t watch Glee any more. Yes, Glee/Fox should definitely pay for Jonathan’s IP.
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