Jonathan Coulton: Glee plagiarized my arrangement of "Baby Got Back"

Jonathan Coulton has publicly shamed Fox for plagiarizing his arrangement for "Baby's Got Back" on its TV show "Glee":

Writing on Techdirt, Mike Masnick has a good, nuanced view of how this kind of thing works:

Yes, his is a cover song, but he introduced some variations that appear to be directly copied in Glee. Is there a potential copyright claim here? Well, that depends -- and the copyright law here is complex. You can cover a song by paying compulsory license fees, and Fox likely did that to whoever holds the copyright on the original. But they copied specific changes (and possibly the music) that Coulton added, which, could potentially be covered by his own copyright (of course, whether or not he registered them could also impact what he could do about it). And, let's not even get into the issue of things like sync licenses for video, and the (still open) question of whether or not Glee actually used part of Coulton's own recording.

In the end, though, almost none of that probably matters. Because Coulton seems unlikely (we hope) to go legal here. Instead, he's just going with the public shame route -- with a simple tweet about the situation, which has set off "the internet" to help him make his case and embarrass Fox and Glee.

Jonathan Coulton Publicly Shames Fox For Copying His Arrangement In Glee


  1. This is dangerous.  A piece of a friend’s soul died when he heard they did a Rocky Horror episode on Glee.  A piece of mine will die if they decide to do a Jonathan Coulton episode.  

    1. I’m having problems following your logic. Is it because you don’t want many people to hear it because it might get “mainstream”? Or what else could be a reason against someone else interpreting musik you like?

      Please correct me if I’m wrong, but to me this looks like all those arguments against gay marriage. Utter nonsense. 

      1. What I’ve seen of the show seems to me to be cloyingly sweet, with the musical arrangement overwrought, and infused with (again, my interpretation), false drama.  When I hear a song I like that’s been processed into Muzak, I don’t feel happy that more people are listening to the kind of music I like, because it’s taken the essence of music I liked and broken it.  YMMV.  When TMBG and Weird Al became less obscure and got more mainstream recognition, it did make me happy.

        1. The Rocky Horror episode wasn’t that bad (apart from the stupid ending); I’ve heard much worse done to it and still work.  While the show’s arrangement is often overwrought, it’s had a few moments of genuine brilliance too.  (Fewer and further between, apparently, since I stopped watching, but still… that it’s bad doesn’t mean that it’s uniformly bad.)

          I understand the feeling you’re talking about… any piece of art with enough emotion to be worth liking also has enough emotion to be reprocessed into an inferior version by the mass market.  That’s not entirely a bad thing, however much it makes us wince.

          1. I’ve no issue with you enjoying things, be it Glee or Muzak.  That is your prerogative. I’ve seen a lot of things I enjoyed come to mass media, only to arrive half-baked and not living up to their promise.  “die inside” is an expression of sadness and disappointment, I don’t expect to experience any actual necrotic tissue. Thanks for your concern.    

          2. Then you don’t mind the Disneyfication and Coke-commercialization of cultures that have evolved over millennia?

          3. Rocky Horror is a millenia-old culture? 

            I mean, to answer your question – yeah, but this isn’t exactly a good example.

          4. How long do you think it took them to get here from Transsexual Transylvania? Or are you suggesting that Dr. Frank-N-Furter had access to a FTL spaceship?

          5. But if Boing Boing is incorporated (as Happy Mutants LLC) and corporations now appear to be people, then can’t Boing Boing love? Or is Boing Boing more of a sociopath as a corporation personhood? :) 

            Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where people will accept corporations for what they are and allow them to fall in love and marry and not just have corporate partnerships.

          6. “Wait, I thought BoingBoing loved Disney?”

            I love the Imagineers and some of the park experience. Their cultural/copyright force, not so much.

      2. Because their “mashups” are uninspired and terrible autotune-heavy pieces of crap. Not because anything goes “mainstream”. They do a disservice to both songs that get awkwardly shoved together.

  2. *laughing with tears* the Glee version even sings “Johnny C’s in trouble-“!

    And that is absolutely his arrangement.

    Oh, slam dunk indeed!

    1. whoa!!  i’m gonna remain an optimist and hope this propels JoCo to enormous fame, fortune, and eternal happiness.  

      Or at least a millionaire girlfriend.

      1. The recording JC made does have copyright, but someone doing a cover of a song that is not his, in a style that he happens to do the song also in does not mean they are infringing his copyright.

        They are ripping his idea, but legally, he has no copyright claim to:
        A: The lyrics of Baby Got Back, or
        B: Doing a slow humorous cover of a rap song.

        1. “the copyright of a derivative work covers … the additions, changes, or other new material appearing for the first time in the work.”  [Slate article quoting the US Copyright Office]

          The Slate article also notes that the Glee version includes lyrical variations that Coulton introduced.  (You can hear the “Johnny C” around 2:17 on the Glee track.)

    1. Copyright goes into effect as soon as it’s written down. If it’s not registered, it becomes a matter of “he said she said” but the point still remains that it’s copyrighted and it’s illegal.

      1. Prior to the Copyright Act of 1976 (kind of a U.S. mashup of Berne), creators were accorded no copyright protections unless the work bore proper copyright or phonorecord notice, was deposited with LoC, and was registered with Copyright Office. Peggy’s initial Fever work was in the late ’50s, so Berne Convention didn’t help her out. Not sure about her 1989 revisions… that’s the year U.S. (finally) adopted Berne.

  3. I wouldn’t even say that “arrangement” is the right word here.  The music from his track has nothing to do with the original music.  Only the lyrics are in common.  Further, listening to the two versions in the youtube doubler, it seems extremely likely that they used the backing track from his version as it sounds exactly alike.

    Pointing out that the episode of Glee hasn’t aired yet is irrelevant as just making their version and posting it to YouTube without attribution is already violating the CC-BY-NC license it was made available under.  I’m curious whether they just thought that they could get away with it or if someone in Fox’s legal department misunderstands CC licenses.

    1. Yep, they just sang over his backing track.  No doubt about it in my mind after listening to the two versions together.

  4. I am assuming Sir Mix-a-Lot, or someone connected to him, owns the copyright on the original. Only the original copyright holder can authorize a derivative work and license fees are not the equivalent. Without the authorization, the derivative work cannot be copyrighted itself. You can still create it, and probably still perform the song, but you can’t copyright it, unless you have the prior copyright holder’s sign-off. Creative Commons whatever cannot do and endrun around this aspect of copyright law. Unless Coulton already has the right piece of paper, he is S.O.L.

    1. I’m not sure the authorisation aspect is relevant – Coulton can certainly claim copyright on the aspects of the arrangement that he brought to the cover, which in this case is every thing about the song except for the lyrics. And he even changed one of the lines of the lyric.

      1. Yes it is relevant and is black letter law at this point. Imagine if you will, someone turns a Cory Doctorow novel into an epic poem. Leaving aside any “cool, mannnn!” issues, Cory would have control the creation of derivative work, unless he gave his permission explicitly or through Creative Commons licensing (and then the derivative work creator couldn’t make money off it, I believe). Same for Sir Mix-A-Lot. We are rather used to arrangements in music, and they are well tolerated as long as the original copyright holder gets paid, but  not always. The fundamental notion is you cannot profit by someone else’s copyright without a by-you-leave from them. This is no different. And changing a line would not meet the test for a significant change, anyway. If Coulton had composed the music as a song, THEN later applied the Baby Got Back lyrics, you could argue he had an existing copyright on his composition, but as far as I know, his cover has only existed as a cover. EVEN IF SO, the mashup of his music and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s lyrics would be a DERIVATIVE WORK. The original music was composed to the lyrics. It is derivative. No prior permission, no copyright. No copyright, no standing to object when someone else uses the derivative work.

        1. You are flat out wrong. You don’t need permission to copyright a derivative work. I’ve done it myself. Look at the copyright form if you don’t believe me. It’s just a matter of filling out an extra line and checking off a box or something.

    2. Derivative works can be copyrighted. Sorry. It has nothing to do with if he officially filed – that just makes it easier to prove. The point is that it’s still illegal.

      1. Yes copyrightable, with permission of the copyright holder. I dealt with copyright for years in my job. Changing something around does not give you any rights. “No sir. It doesn’t matter if you crop the photo and change it to black and white; No ma’am three changes doesn’t make it a new copyrightable work; No. You can’t base your pamphlet on someone else’s work even if you are using only part and adding a bunch to it and not making a profit off of it.” I have had literally hundreds of these conversations with people who thought they knew what they were talking about. I, on the other hand had a legal department who would tell me not to do things that could get us sued.

    3. This is just not correct.  The music in this case is not a cover of Sir Mix-a-lot’s version. It’s entirely original. JoCo may not have legal copyright over the cover (the combination of the music and the Sir Mix-a-lot lyrics), but he does still own copyright over the music he created. Licensing some lyrics and recording them over an original music composition does not void the copyright on the musical composition. He also owns the copyright to the recording of the music, which they seem to have used.

      1. The music does not appear to have existed apart from the cover. It appears to have been composed to fit the lyrics. The prior copyright is controlling.

        17 U.S.C. § 101:

        A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “DERIVATIVE WORK”.

        17USC § 106 provides:

        Subject to sections 107 through 122,THE OWNER OF THE COPYRIGHTED WORK HAS EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS to do AND TO AUTHORIZE any of the following:
        (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies…;
        (3) to distribute copies…of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending….

        Unless the original copyright holder gives permission (waives his derivative rights) you can’t copyright it. Nuff Said.

        1. What about fanfic? I recall Teresa Nielsen Hayden (an editor, and in a position to know) has said that fan fiction is copyright by its authors, regardless of whether they sought permission to create them in the first place.

          1. I don’t think it’s that simple. Owners of original works often do not look favorably upon these works.Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s position, I think, is fanfic authors own their stories, but not the characters they use in them. There are plenty of lawyers who would argue with her. Whether fanfic is inherently infringing is an issue fairly poorly tested in court. Plenty o’fanfic writers have received cease and desist letters. Few have been sued. There is no money in fanfic to either defend its legality, nor money to recover in a successful lawsuit. Most fanfic authors fold up camp when challenged, and most of the case law isn’t favorable to fanfic.

            It boils down to “fully delineated” characters ARE protected by copyright and sometimes trademark law. Fanfic will almost inevitably be legally considered a derivative work. There’s a whole wiki on this:
            Here’s two more overviews of fanfic legalities: and

        2. Why do you skip the section that actually covers derivative work?

          § 103 . Subject matter of copyright: Compilations and derivative works
          (a) The subject matter of copyright as specified by section 102 includes compilations and derivative works, but protection for a work employing preexisting material in which copyright subsists does not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully.
          (b) The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material. The copyright in such work is independent of, and does not affect or enlarge the scope, duration, ownership, or subsistence of, any copyright protection in the preexisting material.

          1. “…but protection for a work employing preexisting material in which copyright subsists does not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully” supports everything I have been claiming. Thanks for pointing it out.

    4. This si a very incomplete picture, there are many things that are covered, for example, performance rights, It looks as if they used his music, possibly even his own backing track which is his.

      Sure, Glee can secure the rights to make their own version of the song, but thats not what they did, they used someone elses arrangement so they wouldnt have to pay an arranger to do it for them and since, I believe, they are using his backing track, didn’t pay JoCo to play on it either.

      I don’t have all the answers, but its not black and white.

      1.  Your answer is right in your text: ” Glee can secure the rights to make their own version of the song, but thats not what they did…” How do you know they didn’t ? How do you know Coulton did? I have seen no assertion from him that he did, and if he didn’t there is no legal obstacle to Glee using his work. Moral obstacle? Sure. But legal =/= moral. If Coulton didn’t have the authorization, Glee would have only had to deal with Sir Mix-A-Lot to get authorization.

        1. I think you misunderstood me. Yes, they probably secured the rights to make their own version of the song.
          NO, they did NOT make their own version of the song, they, apparently used JoCo’s recording of the song and put some autotuned vocals on top.

          This is dodgy no matter how you look at it.

          1. But you are ignoring that Coulton HAS NO copyright over a derivative work unless he has negotiated and probably paid the original rights holder. If not, and no one has asserted he has the derivative rights legally, he has no copyright on his alterations of the original song. It’s like him building a fence on someone else’s property and posting a no trespassing sign on it. You don’t have to obey it.


          2. You keep saying the same thing, and it keeps not being true. He has copyright on the music, but not on the lyrics. Music and lyrics are separately copyrightable.

          3. Hey Antinous, how ’bout backing up that it isn’t true if you are so sure. I have provided plenty of backing for my position. You are simply gainsaying, as are most of the folks who don’t agree with me.  A butthurt UHN-uh!! isn’t an argument, it’s contradiction.You can keep saying it isn’t true, but…

            There are two possibilities:
            !. Coulton is relying on a compulsory mechanical license to create his version. That would explicitly disallow him from claiming a copyright.
            2. Coulton actually negotiated with the original copyright holder (and paid) for a license to create a derivative work. I have seen no assertion he did here, on Coulton’s web site, or any where else, but he did, and can claim a copyright over his new version, then the Glee producers could license it with a …wait for it…compulsory mechanical license!! Even if you are correct (and you’re not) that the music and the lyrics here are separate entities for the purpose of copyright in this case and Coulton has a legitimate copyright over the music, the Glee producers still only need a compulsory mechanical license. PLUS the ffucking show hasn’t even aired yet, so how does anyone know what credit Coulton receives. All he has now is a Swedish iTunes listing to go by.

            Now, if he can show that they used hid musical tracks without securing a synchronization license, he has a dog in this hunt, because there in undoubtedly a PERFORMANCE copyright is version on his version that he owns, just no compositional copyright.

    5. coulton licensed `baby got back,’ and because of this could not and did not release it under CC, unless he is blatantly lying here (2nd paragf):

      even if he hadn’t, your conclusion is still very tenuous. it’s quite possible that he would retain copyright over his innovation; he just wouldn’t be able to perform or record it. however, someone else performing it would violate both his rights and sir mix-a-lot’s.
      by analogy, many people patent improvements on a prior invention; they can’t use it themselves, but they can license it to the original inventor or his licensees. i know, patent is not copyright, but it’s just an analogy.

      finally, your including CC is a total red herring insofar as it pertains to whether the work is derivative. it either is, or isn’t; CC has nothing to do with that. in fact this is so obvious, that one wonders whether you’re perhaps trying to slur CC by association.

  5. I suppose as a responsible journalist, Mike wanted to hedge his bets, but if he had actually listened to both versions side by side, or compared the waveforms, it would be awfully hard to continue harboring any doubt that they did in fact take Coulton’s track and put their lyrics on top.  (most likely they took the karaoke track he provides) The episode may not have aired yet, but the track was selling on Itunes for a while, with Glee Cast as the artist.

    Here’s Jonathan’s take:

    1. Yeah, I thought the same thing. I mean, this is a slimy move by Glee, but if they owe Jonathan Coulton anything, then Jonathan Coulton owes some of that to John Denver’s estate.

  6. I very much recommend the article by Nilay Patel (who studied law):

    In short: Artists usually pay to perform the cover, which doesn’t give them any copyright on their interpretation. If they want copyright, they need to figure out a deal with the right holder of the original. 

    This makes perfect sense, since otherwise, someone could just claim to cover the cover of the cover of the cover, until the original Artist gets nothing. Or anyone doing a cover could claim they used elements from his version (even in cases where they didn’t actually do it). 

    1. The legal part of his analysis would be correct if his factual understanding of what has occurred were correct, but it isn’t.  JoCo didn’t merely record a cover of the music.  He wrote entirely new music.  The lyrics are licensed, but the music is original.  Further, if you listen to them, they almost certainly did use his recording.  It sounds not just similar, but identical.  Thus the part that’s spot on is the “if they used his recording” part.

      1. Still a derivative work. Coulton’s version has no existence except as a cover. It’s not like he set the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to music, or discovered that you can sing any of Emily Dickinson’s poems to the tune of the Yellow Rose of Texas. He took a composition that has been around twenty or more years that has an existing copyright using it’s words and metrical structure to deliberately create a new melody and arrangement. And he boosted from John Denver while doing it. This was the preparation of a derivative work. The original copyright holder has exclusive rights to authorize the creation of such works.

        1. Don’t know about The Yellow Rose of Texas, but I did once see a singer get caught flatfooted at the end of a guitar solo and draw a blank on the next verse. It was then that I and a hundred other people learned that the back label of a Miller Light works surprisingly well to the tune of Misty Mountain Hop.

        2. “Still a derivative work.”

          He’s not angry about the lyrics being ripped but the (non-derivative) music.

          1.  The music didn’t exist except to be used with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s lyrics, which preexisted. Legally, it is derivative, like the music to Cats is derivative of T.S. Eliot’s prior work. The difference is the Eliot estate licensed the creation of the music based on the poems.

  7. They should do a cover of Nina Gordon’s cover of Straight Outta Compton.

    “My AK47 is a tool, don’t make me out the motherfucking fool”
    Can we make this happen?

  8. I wonder what would happen if someone covered the Glee version of a song (like one of their mash-ups) … would Glee/Fox be okay with only the original artists getting any credit/money?

  9. I’m not a lawyer, but the way i understand it the original creator of a piece of art has all the rights to it and any work clearly derivative of it.
    JoCo’s version is a derivative version (cover) of a song not an original work and he recognized it by paying the license fee, and as such he only has the rights that have been explicitly granted to him by said license, even if his version is very different from the original.

    If they would automatically grant copyright to changes in a derivative work, it would severely restrict the original owner’s ability to use their own intellectual property.
    Imagine for example a new Harry Potter book coming out and JK Rowling getting sued because the plot is too close to some potter fanfiction some teenager has written. Or imagine if the makers of the next Star Trek movie who own the Star Trek license would get sued by the writer of a Star Trek tie-in novel because he thinks it is too close to his book.

    1. JoCo’s version is a derivative version (cover) of a song not an original work

      Lyrics and music are different things and separately copyrightable. If he writes new music, he owns it, even if he applies someone else’s lyrics to it.

      1. Too simplistic a view of derivative work, I feel. Even if you are right that he has a copyright over his music, the combination of his music with the original lyrics constitute a derivative work.

        17 U.S.C. § 101:

        A “derivative work” is a work based upon one OR MORE preexisting works,

        Coulton’s music appears to have been exclusively prepared to match the preexisting lyrics, and has limited value separate from those lyrics. It is performed as a cover. Viewed with a legalistic eye, Sir Mix-A-Lot has the controlling copyright barring his prior authorization to create a derivative work. I’m not saying Glee didn’t make a dick move. I am willing to believe the legal department of Glee’s producer is keenly aware of rights clearances and knows whose signature they need and  to whom they must cut a check. And they knew they didn’t need Coulton’s OK or to pay him.

        1. Sabeletodo, Antinous is exactly correct, and you are wrong. You’re just speculating and making up nonsense. The music is separately copyrightable. Any practicing musician who has applied for copyrights knows this.

          1. Actually, I have cited articles and US copyright law. No speculation and I haven’t made anything up. Your “any practicing musician..knows this” is pretty week sauce and not a refutation of what I am asserting. Put down the bong and come back when you can cite something besides your ego.

            Here’s some mo’ evidence of what I am saying:

            As we can see from the above language, the default rule is that ONLY the composer of a song can prepare a musical arrangement of the song. But thankfully, there are exceptions.

            Arrangements made by someone other than the composer are LEGAL when:

            the song being arranged is in public domain; OR
            the arranger has the explicit permission of any one of the song’s composers/publishers to make the arrangement; OR
            the song arrangement is created specifically to be recorded under a compulsory license, AND the arrangement IS recorded, AND proper royalties are actually paid in accordance with section 115.

            The statutory language of section 115 says “A compulsory license [to make a sound recording] includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work …, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.”

            The law creates a very interesting outcome: the arranger may arrange without the permission of the author in this limited situation, but the arranger does not “own” a copyright in this legally made arrangement without the permission of the author!”

  10. God I hate these sort of songs.

    Now if they wanted to do a slow acoustic cover of an Antipop Consortium song, I’d be interested.. 

  11. Am I the only one noticing the irony between the usual BB “Copyright is broken and outdated and who needs it anymore anyway” viewpoint with this “Copyright infringed! Sue! Sue!” type viewpoint? Because for me the irony is glaring, and a little ugly.

    1. I see an overall consistency in their editorial voice asserting that the purpose of copyright is to protect individual creators and not allow for their abuse by large, powerful media companies with deep pockets.

      1. I wasn’t clear but but my observation was directed at the BB commenters rather than the article authors. 
        BB is written by many different individuals, and like a newspaper, a variation of viewpoints and opinion rather than a a single consistent stance is normal, and I think important. 

        1. Pretty much when it’s an evil corporation or multinational doing it, die die die – sue sue sue…
          And when it’s a non-profit, awesome individual, artist doing it then it’s an epic internet win of a million unicorns shooting rainbows out of their horns while cute kittens ride them across the sky.

          I’m not a lawyer or anything and frankly this is really between JoCo and Fox.  Unless he steps up and goes for a legal solution I doubt he’ll get much more than an “Oops our bad.”.  Somewhere in the early 90’s Fox stopped being the underdog station I grew up with and became just as self entitled and arrogant as the rest of the big three.

          1. But wait! 

            If he goes the social-media-public-shaming route rather than the legal route and plays his cards right, he could end up with a guest-starring gig on Glee!

            If it were me, I’d be talking to my agent – not my lawyer. :-)

        2. But copyright being broken means corporations and people with money can do what they want and the JoCo’s of the world get screwed.

          When you start seeing people on BB crying fowl because maybe JoCo’s got a case against Fox then you KNOW copyright is screwed way more than we thought it was, because now we have some sort of “stockholm copyright syndrome” situation, where the only people that get sympathy for recurring to the law are evil corporations because they are evil anyways!


    2. I don’t think there are that many BB people who advocate the abolishment of copyright, so there isn’t quite the distinction between criticising copyright and using it. People believe in fairness.

      Thus, it seems unfair when Disney copies a character or story and then lobbies to extend copyright indefinitely to protect their booty. Similarly, it seems unfair when people appropriate an entire work wholesale, without even notice or attribution. It’s worse when the people copying are from the semi-obsolete “content industry” aka. the mass media companies, aka. the analog corporations, who lobby hard to apply analog copyright logic on a digital world, ie. copyright designed to protect the interests of a tiny, obsolete minority at the cost of literally *everyone* alive today or born in the future.

      1. True. Good points. I was making an observation on the sometimes conflicting nature of the comments I see on copyright issues. Reminds me of a lot of bit torrent advocates I saw up in arms about Facebook apparently about to steal peoples photos. Can you steal from The Man and still rightfully be upset when The Man steals back? It’s not that simple of course. Copyright and IP are complex issues that revolve around a balance of protecting creativity without suffocating it. Tricky stuff.

        1.  And then you have people like me. I think copyright should be abolished, but IF we have to have it, the people responsible for pushing it and making the rules should be expected to follow them too.

  12. Richard Cheese has been bitching on Twitter the past couple days about Glee snaking one of his tunes. Wonder if it’s related to this, as he also does a brilliant cover of Baby Got Back.

  13. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not that I have the single of Baby Got Back and Mack Daddy cd, and remember watching the video for Baby Got Back on In Living Color…

    Somtimes I miss the 90’s.

  14. Is it possible that the GLEE lawyers thought they only HAD to license it from the original copyright holder? Can an arrangement be copyrighted??
    Still, clearly they copies, and there is the tangle of feelings. When my ideas have been used without my consent, I have told myself that they thought very very little of me, and THAT hurt.  Good luck Jonathan. Welcome to the journey of forgiveness. It’s a rough road :(

    1. JoCo wrote original music for his version/cover of BGB. That original music is automatically copyrighted to him, per the Berne Convention, until he decides to license it otherwise (e.g. CC).
      If the Glee lawyers didn’t know that, someone in a fancy suit has been having a bad few days since this broke.

  15. Some of this is they copied JC, the other part is people who hate the tweeny GLEE.  If they did copy Johnathan, and since he is going the public shame route vs lawyer.  If I was producing over there I would have a flunky contact him and write JC into an episode to make it all right.  In the end this is a very very murky part of copyright with many different rights holders and lawyers could try to straighten it out but in then end the only winner would be lawyers.  

    1. “The ‘public shame route’ is murky ethically too.”

      In cases where someone is objectively wronged with no recourse, no. It’s not.

  16. I think Weird Al should be able to clear this up. He knows the legalities, from his polka medleys and songs like Isle Thing, where he uses the lyrics from one song and sings it to the tune of another song.

    1.  From what I understand Weird Al licenses the songs he does, even though parody is protected. That wouldn’t have any bearing on this case anyway, because this wasn’t a parody of JCs song, it was stealing an idea, and arrangement.

      1. His polka medleys are not parodies. He uses the actual lyrics from actually songs, but he writes new music. It’s exactly like this. He makes money off his polkas, and gets credit for the music he writes. So he knows something. He definitely knows something.

        1. What he knows is to get authorization from the copyright holder to create a derivative work, although the parody exemption of Fair Use would probably cover him if anyone wanted to sue. He has only been turned down twice, once by Prince and once by Lady Gaga ( who changed her mind after he released the song for free), although he did piss off Coolio

          Coulton’s only license to use Baby Got Back is almost certainly a compulsory mechanical license which anyone can obtain without express permission from the copyright holder by paying a fee usually to the Harry Fox Agency. The problem is that a compulsory mechanical license expressly does not allow you to create a derivative work:

          17 U.S.C. § 101:A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement SHALL NOT CHANGE THE BASIC MELODY …” thus preventing mechanical licenses being used to make substantially derivative works of a piece of music. To do this, Weird Al or Jonathan Coulton needs the express permission from the original copyright holder giving license to create a derivative work.

          1. “almost certainly.”


            edit: yeah, this seems to come down to the exact terms of the license coulton bought. unless explicitly stated in the license, coulton’s version has no protection. however, this is not clear either way.

  17. What a dweeb.  Glee will get his name and subsequently his work into peoples heads a billion times more than it was, and he will profit.  This is a case of cutting off ones nose to spite their face.  His claim may be legal, but it’s a PR disaster and will hinder his career and influence.

    1. If Glee wasn’t planning on acknowledging him as the creator of this version, as seems likely given the fact that he hadn’t even heard of it until it turned up in a Glee wiki, then it’s hard to see how they could have gotten anything into people’s heads other than “What a cute arrangement, those folks at Glee are so clever.”

    2. JoCo quit being a programmer and took up nerd folk music.  He’s likely not entirely driven by profit motive and doing things the easy way.  What if he doesn’t like the show, or this arrangement? 

    3. “Glee will get his name and subsequently his work into peoples heads a billion times more than it was”

      Based on what? Glee “wrote” the “mash-up”, didn’t you know?

      1. Fox News conglomerates headline: Dirty Liberal Copyright-Hating Fascist Hippie Pirates pants well-respected multinational corporate charity benefactors; why does this mob of unwashed nerds hate $COUNTRY_OF_PUBLICATION?

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