Credit Where Credit’s Due

Although I’ve always been aware of Jonathan Coulton, I never really heard his music until Planet Money aired a story about how he made half a million dollars in 2010 without a recording contract or radio airplay (write catchy songs, and build your own fanbase).

Last week, I learned on Twitter that Coulton’s arrangement and cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” was stolen by Fox for a musical number on the show Glee. According to Verge, Coulton’s out of luck—“there’s no legal recourse for a cover that sounds exactly like yours”—so Coulton decided to record “a cover of Glee’s cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s song, which is to say it’s exactly the same as my original version” and release it on iTunes, with all sales of the song going to support two charities, the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and the It Gets Better Project.

I bought Coulton’s cover of the song, which is currently number 103 on iTunes. Fox told Coulton he should be happy for the exposure, and sure, I would have never bought the song if this whole debacle didn’t happen. But that doesn’t make it right—especially for someone who never needed mainstream exposure to find success in the first place.

Photo: Jacob Davies

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3 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#22)

Fun question: Why has this only gotten attention now, when biting covers has been an established thing that Glee does?

(Fun answer: The other artists aren’t Internet Famous.)

Rooster A (#1,620)

If he is a songwriter, he almost certainly registers his original work with BMI or ASCAP or the other one I can never remember. He should have done the same with his arrangement of “Baby Got Back.” Yes, he would have had to pay the licensing fee to the person or company that owns the rights to the original “Baby Got Back,” but his arrangement (not cover) would have been protected.

@Rooster A other people with more knowledge of this kind of thing than I have (including Coulton himself, I believe) have addressed this elsewhere, but he DID pay the licensing fee, and arrangements aren’t copyrightable. What Fox/Glee did is legal, just a dick move.

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