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Jonathan Coulton Offers Some Gleeful Turnabout 157

Posted by timothy
from the copyright-and-covers-oh-my dept.
The TV show Glee may have borrowed Jonathan Coulton's arrangement of "Baby Got Back" without asking him first, but he's got a response of the kind that it'd be hard for the show's makers to criticize without looking churlish. Borrowing it back, and using it to raise money for charity. As CNET puts it, "Coulton has foxily tossed up on iTunes his own version of the song and titled it 'Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee).' He terms it 'my cover of Glee's cover of my cover.'"
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Jonathan Coulton Offers Some Gleeful Turnabout

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  • Re: So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by wilson_c (322811) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @08:10PM (#42711145)

    Publishing rights, which tend to make more money than mechanicals.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @08:13PM (#42711167)

    Royalties on every song sold, as Coulton states on his website.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @09:35PM (#42711661)

    You, uh, have no idea what you're saying, do you?

    The melody is original to Coulton. The words are not. There's more to music than words, genius.

    But, of course, all that is beside the point. Artists do covers all the time...that doesn't mean they don't write original material as well. Are you 12? You sound 12.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @09:37PM (#42711681)

    Not even going into this particular story or his musical ability, I do have issues with you saying he can't create anything on his own - Back Got Back is one of his few covers, and he did it during his Thing a Week project...I don't fault him for wanting to do a cover during a project of releasing a new song every week, and at least he changed the melody and rhythm and what not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:08PM (#42711857)

    The melody is original to Coulton. The words are not

    Actually, some of the words were original to Coulton too, Glee used his version of the lyrics as well.

  • Re:Both songs suck. (Score:5, Informative)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:24PM (#42711933) Homepage

    Seriously - I just listened to it on Youtube and it's AWFUL. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCWaN_Tc5wo [youtube.com]

    The Glee version is only slightly different but equally putrid. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yww4BLjReEk [youtube.com]

    vs. the original version which is absolutely brilliant. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY84MRnxVzo [youtube.com]

    The Coulton version is a joke. I think you missed the joke.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:50PM (#42712401)

    You are missing a few things.

    First, Coulton didn't just cover it. He modified it greatly so that the end result, while still obviously a version of the original song, was nonetheless a new work in its own right.

    Second, Glee is a TV show, and TV shows must license the synchronization rights to use a song. Period.

    Third, in addition to not licensing the song, the show didn't even bother to credit him. That's just plain old douchebaggery.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:51AM (#42713525) Journal

    Apparently he didn't actually have permission. He had a mechanical license, which by definition, does not allow the creation of works that differ melodically from the original. So there are two ways the courts could interpret this:

    • Universal's allowance of the Coulton variant constitutes tacit acceptance that they don't consider it to be different in character from the original (a.k.a. Fox's bizarro-world interpretation), in which case his arrangement of the song falls into a very special class of arrangement that isn't protected by copyright by virtue of the fact that it was created under compulsory licensing rules rather than under the terms of an actual agreement between the parties involved, or
    • Universal's lack of a lawsuit does not constitute tacit acceptance that his arrangement is not in violation of their copyright (but rather, mere unwillingness to bother suing), in which case Coulton owns the copyright for the melody, did not have a legal right to record the combination of that melody with the original lyrics, and is technically in violation of copyright for every copy he has ever sold to date.

    In the first interpretation, he has no case. In the second interpretation (which IMO is more likely), he could ostensibly get money out of Fox, but only at the risk of getting then sued by Universal for his prior releases as revenge for having deprived them of royalties from Fox. Sadly, it's probably a no-win.

    The best he could hope for is to get an activist judge and go for a Lanham Act case against Fox, but it would be unlikely to hold up on appeal, if Dastar v. Fox is any indication of the court's current leanings.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Monday January 28, 2013 @05:12AM (#42713591)

    To stream major studio content over digital output (DVI/HDMI) requires HDCP. If you don't have it, it'll drop to non-HD. If you have VGA, it'll do it even though VGA doesn't do HDCP. If you have a laptop and the video is on the internal display (not being output on a connector at all) it'll do it even if you don't have HDCP.

    Weird? Yes. But the major studios require this. On all platforms with all services. It happens on Blu-ray. It happens on Netflix. It happens on PC. It happens on Xbox 360. It happens on Apple TV.

    TV content (which comprises a large amount of Netflix' streaming library) doesn't require this, as it doesn't come from movie studios. The studios knew people would not like this, and would seek out any platform it isn't true on. So that's why they require it on all content.

    If you have digital output without HDCP and try to play content that requires HDCP, it cannot output it at higher than 540p. I think it just goes right down to 480P.

    I just double checked this with my Mac using Netflix and it will not stream Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in HD whether I have HDCP. Netflix says "available in HD on your TV". Non-studio content, like Portlandia for example (a TV show) says "Available in HD" and it streams in HD whether I have HDCP or not.

    So it looks like for PC/Mac, Netflix doesn't do HD at all for major studio content, regardless of VGA, HDMI and HDCP. That content is only "Available in HD on your TV", not your computer.

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