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Shame on You, Glee

Back in 2005 when I was still in graduate school, my wanderings about the Internet brought me to a delightful cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back by a fellow named Jonathan Coulton. (Here's the original for comparison.) Coulton reimagined the crass rap classic as a lackadaisical, folksy, and extremely white ballad, and it's brilliant. He wrote a melody and an arrangement and basically just used the words. I've long been a fan of out of genre song covers so this one was right up my alley. In the years since, Coulton has made a name for himself with fans of smart and geeky music.

Fast forward to last week, when this video came to the general attention of the Internet. It's a track for an unreleased episode of the television show Glee, featuring a cover of Baby Got Back. Take a listen. Sound familiar? Yeah, you're not the only one who noticed:

By the way, if it's not clear to you that Glee ripped off the cover, arrangement, melody and basically everything else entirely, please note that Coulton at one point changes the lyrics to say "Johnny C's in trouble" instead of "Mix-A-Lot's in trouble." You'd think maybe that Glee would avoid linking their version quite so closely to Coulton's, wouldn't you? But nope. That lyric remains unchanged in Glee's version.

There is no attribution to Coulton for the arrangement. Coulton was never contacted, was never asked permission and never received any compensation. The larceny is so obvious that many people were doubting if the Glee track was legitimate, and whether FOX would be so bold as to really do this. But the episode aired last night. And Coulton's been in touch with FOX about it. You can see from Coulton's blog that FOX says "they’re within their legal rights to do this, and that I should be happy for the exposure (even though they do not credit me, and have not even publicly acknowledged that it’s my version – so you know, it’s kind of SECRET exposure)."

Now, FOX may well be right that what they did was legal. From what I can understand from the articles above, the legality issue is still unclear. Still to be worked out is whether or not FOX actually scammed Coulton's audio track and used it in their recording. (The evidence in that department is pretty damning.)

But even if what they did was legal: sweet mother of mercy, really? How hard would it have been to ask the man and give him credit? He's a nobody compared to a major national network television show. And that's precisely why FOX didn't. Because they figured they could get away with it.

I watched the first season of Glee and enjoyed it for the most part. Eventually the terrible acting and plot lines drove me away. But this has pretty much guaranteed that I'll never watch the show again and will actively disparage it to everyone I know. Glee and FOX should be ashamed of themselves for blatantly and remorselessly stealing the creative work of someone else.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 25, 2013 10:44 AM.

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