More plagiarism from Glee

Last weekend, I blogged about Jonathan Coulton's discovery that the TV show Glee had plagiarized his arrangement for "Baby's Got Back."

Now, the magnificent DJ Earworm writes, "This is my call-out tweet from last February, expressing surprise at the similarities between Glee's arrangement and my own which had aired just a few months previously. I didn't think much about it, but I read that Jonathan Coulton story, and it seemed so similar to my own experience, I thought I'd share."

@AfroBlueDC sang MY mashup on NBC last Nov. … Now I find out @GLEEonFOX aired/sells SAME combo?! (Thanks, DJ Earworm)


  1. Their first episode (the only one I really watched) ripped off Petra Hayden’s cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” I thought that’s just what the show did.

    1. I know Petra Hayden’s cover, but I don’t watch the show.  Did they rip off the whole arrangement, or did they just do an acapella version of the song?

      1. It was really just an a capella version of the song, which is especially apparent when you get to the chorus, since Petra’s version is very unique/quirky and Glee pretty much played it straight. Maybe there are some similarities, but nothing on the level of these latest incidents.

  2. Why is everyone surprised?
    Copyright old exists for corporations to make money from the work of others, and only corporations can hold them.

    1. Common Law copyright dictates that the creator of a work owns the copyright. Creators can sell or lease their copyrights, however, and that’s what many do, in exchange for the big machine of promotion and distirbutuion. Are the corporations greedy cheats? Sure. Is anyone forcing the creators to assign their copyrights? No.

      1. You might have missed my tongue stuck squarely in my cheek… the mask makes that hard.

        If DJ Earwig had done a cover of a song from Glee, Fox would have chased him to the ends of the earth to get their due.  They would have tried to sue him, even if the law was on his side, because they have a larger war chest they would win.

        The system is unbalanced and Fox who loves to scream about people ‘stealing’ their copyrighted content is caught once again having no respect for others copyrighted material that they take to profit from.

          1. So Rome fell maybe because of lead pipes…
            Does this mean we can keep hoping Hollywood will fall because of the cocaine?

  3. When money is being made off intellectual property by its owner, CD often suggests that the property should be free for anyone to use.  Yet when money is being made by the free use of someone else’s intellectual property, CD often suggests that it’s plagiarism.  One could be forgiven for concluding from this mixed data that far from presenting a consistent position on IP issues, CD is, in fact, just “for” any perceived underdog and “against” anyone making money, no matter which side of the equation they’re on.

    That said, I hate Glee.  

    1. You could have turned that around just as easily:
      When companies want to use someone else’s intellectual property, they often suggest it should be free for anyone. Yet when someone uses their intellectual property, they often insist that it’s plagiarism – or theft.

      Might it be possible CD is just against this double standard? I guess the only way to answer that would be to pay attention to what he actually says about it…so there’s no way we can ever know.

    1. Coulton paid the Harry Fox agency for the right to do a cover version of Baby’s Got Back. Earworm mashes up existing works to create new ones. Glee used the Coulton & Earworm pieces nearly identically and did not credit, pay, or in any away acknowledge them. There’s only one plagiarist here.

      1.  Is it really a new work, or is it a derivative of an existing work? I think the rights holders would be able to use the arrangement if they hold the rights to both works. It’s a sticky situation though.

    2. Plagiarism is misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own. Coulton and Earworm credited the original writers and performers. Not plagiarism. Glee using someone’s original arrangement or mashup and not crediting it makes it appear that it was their work. Plagiarism.

  4. Cory, since you’ve written extensively on the benefits of being able to repurpose existing media (and encouraged others to do so with your own work), I’m curious where you stand on this. You seem to be dinging Glee for it. For you, is it an issue of authorship, or credit, or money, or something else?

    1. Pretty sure Cory is standing in the ‘THIS SUCKS’ line right now.
      Each artist gets to make their own decision where they stand.
      Had they asked or attributed I’d like to hope both of them would have been flattered and worked out something rewarding them in exposure to a much wider audience.

      The fact that Fox is making bank off of wholly lifted content, that they are then placing THEIR copyright on is going to make things even more messy.  How long until ContentID claims DJ Earwig “STOLE” Fox’s property and ends up shutting down his channel?

      Fans of Glee, there are a few it seems, will most likely never hear DJ Earwig or Jonathan Coulton, and if they do it will be assumed that they just lifted it from Fox.  Fox stole the work, they are stealing the credit for the work, and if unchecked they will erase the originals and usurp them.

      They helped rob us of having a public domain, we need to stop them from stealing more of our culture to make a buck.

  5. This whole thing confuses me. Somebody who sung a song they didn’t write is mad because someone else sang the same song and it sound sort of the same. Why not just write your own songs and stop worrying about it? 

    1. *sigh* Coulton created an entirely new, original arrangement for the “Baby Got Back” lyrics.  He had permission to do this, and the result was an enjoyable piece of parody. Glee used Coulton’s original arrangement, complete with changed lyrics, without contacting or crediting him. Why is it so difficult for some people to see how wrong this is?

    2. One of the greatest things about current Internet culture is the open yet respectful remixing and reinterpreting of work purely for the love of said work.  Parody songs, remixes, fanfiction, fanart… an incredible culture of transformative work is being developed that often widens the scope and meaning of the original cultural offerings.  But one of the most important parts of this movement is CREDIT, and people being acknowledged for the contributions they have made.  If a huge company like Fox thinks it can just take someone’s hard work (and yes, original work) because the online creator does not have the same kind of copyright/legal protection as a corporate artist, then the organic and innovative online artistic culture will wither.  THAT’S why this is important.

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