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Music Your Rights Online

Jonathan Coulton Song Used By Glee Without Permission 307

Posted by timothy
from the perhaps-they-can-call-it-willful dept.
FunPika writes "Jonathan Coulton, who is known for songs such as "Code Monkey", is claiming that his cover of "Baby Got Back" was used without permission on Glee, a television show aired by Fox Broadcasting Company. When the Glee version appeared on YouTube last week, Coulton suspected that it sounded similar to his cover, and several of his fans confirmed this by analyzing the two tracks. Despite Coulton contacting Fox, they continued with airing the episode and have placed the song on sale in iTunes."
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Jonathan Coulton Song Used By Glee Without Permission

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  • by whoever57 (658626) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:41PM (#42697443) Journal
    What, did anyone think that copyright was intended to protect anyone except the rich and powerful?
  • speed of takedowns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:43PM (#42697455) Homepage Journal

    interesting to see how a joe average gets smacked down like a gnat with a buick on youtube, but then we see the exact opposite here? Or didn't they file a takedown notice?

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:55PM (#42697567) Journal

    This is the point at which he should submit a DMCA takedown request to Apple [apple.com].

  • by ExploHD (888637) on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:00PM (#42697601)
    Yes, he did a cover. However, he did a specific arrangement of the song that the show took as their own. From the opening chorus to the way the guitar is played, it's the same arrangement of Baby Got Back. I have a feeling that the music arranger for the show might be let go for getting credit where credit wasn't due.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:29PM (#42697793)

    Screw that, this is where you go Bittersweet Symphony on their ass..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_Sweet_Symphony

    Rolling stones bent over The Verve and took all the money generated from their #1 hit because it contained "too much of a sample" that they had licensed.

    I say let this track run iTunes, and then sue them for all the money it generated.

  • by Junta (36770) on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:36PM (#42697831)
    A show with a reported 3.5 million dollar an episode budget can't even be arsed to let artists know their stuff is going to be used....

    All of these people being stolen from would be content with so little as an off-screen credit through some blog post or something. If they wanted to be decent human beings, they would have thrown in an on-screen one liner mentioning the names of the people that are actually responsible for the arrangements, rather than trying to perpetuate the lie that the people behind that show have even an ounce of original musical talent.

    All this stuff they could have done without spending so much as a dime...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:02PM (#42698241)

    IANAL, but if you believe your IP is being violated, wouldn't it look pretty bad in court if you just let damages accrue, and only filed a case after the defendant had made a bunch of money? Especially since this guy is on the books as having noticed his IP is being violated.

  • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:20PM (#42698319)

    They stole Greg Laswell's arrangement of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" about a year ago.

    http://www.pleasewelcomeyourjudges.com/2011/11/greg-laswell-not-glee-ful-about.html

  • by bondsbw (888959) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @12:25AM (#42698609)

    He contacted Fox. Everything is on them now. (And actually, it doesn't really matter whether he contacted them or not. But he probably has a more solid case since they knew of the infringement claim and continued to infringe.)

  • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @01:01AM (#42698731)

    I think the issue is less that they didn't pay him and more that they are fronting as if they came up with it rather than giving him the professional courtesy of credit.

  • by adamdoyle (1665063) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:33AM (#42699113)

    wouldn't it look pretty bad in court if you just let damages accrue, and only filed a case after the defendant had made a bunch of money?

    Generally, no. In the specific case of trademark law, you can lose your trademark if you don't defend it, but with copyright and patents, there is no such 'problem'. Submarine patents are a real thing, look at the case of GIF.

    If you know about copyright infringement and don't act on it, then infringers might be able to employ the defenses of "laches" (unreasonable delay) or "equitable estoppel" (misleading the infringers to believe you're not going to pursue them). I'm not familiar with the GIF case, but my guess is that they were able to show that they were still actively enforcing the patent (even if "actively" is an exaggeration).

  • by emj (15659) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @05:14AM (#42699367) Homepage Journal

    That would be $150 000 per infringement times 6 million viewers, but it might just be per track not per downloaded copy. That single mom [msn.com] had to pay ~$35 000 per track, and it mention that people settle at $3 500 per track.

  • by Paul Slocum (598127) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @10:13AM (#42700181) Homepage Journal
    They literally used inverse phase wave mapping to remove the vocals on his song, then sang the same lyrics, including the "Johnny C's in Trouble" line

    Although the Glee version is a very close reproduction, I don't think it's done by channel phase inverting trick because that technique results in a mono backing track, and their backing track is clearly stereo. Plus if you listen closely on headphones you can hear they're using different drum samples and the instruments sound a bit different.

    However, it's worth noting that the only thing used in Jonathan Coulton's cover from the original is the lyrics. The cover has completely new chord progression and vocal melody that doesn't exist in the original rap at all. Essentially in this case the "cover" is a completely different song with the lyrics from "Baby got back", so I think it's still a clear copyright violation regardless of how they reproduced Coulton's music.

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