News that Jonathan Coulton responded to Glee's blatant ripoff of his cover of "Baby Got Back" by rereleasing it "In the Style of Glee" has met with a great deal of positive approval on the web. Since Glee is apparently in the clear legally, the battle has now moved to the court of public opinion. There Glee's betrayal of the show's values is being seen as a reminder that those who feel that anything that isn't illegal is ok to do are inherently untrustworthy members of civil society.
There seems little question that Glee's version of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" is so closely modeled on Coulton's well-known version as to be nearly indistinguishable. In fact, when supersmart music tech guy Paul Lamere combined the two versions:
"At first I thought I had a bug and only one of the two songs was making it into the output, but nope, they are both there. To prove it I made another version that alternates the same beat between the two songs – sort of a call and answer. You can hear the subtle differences, and yes, they are very subtle."
Jonathan Coulton (left ear) vs Glee (right ear)
The creator of the above SoundCloud mix (who's probably also supersmart) states:
"The only editing I did to this was aligning the tracks. I didn't isolate the vocals and put them over the same backing track; Glee were already using the exact same track, which is, as far as I can tell, JoCo's recording."
Coulton, who discovered Glee's move before it aired on tv, doesn't seem to have resolved the issue of whether or not they actually jacked the instrumentals from his recording but is understandably dismayed with the response from Glee operatives:
"They also got in touch with my peeps to basically say that 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)."
"While they appear not to be legally obligated to do any of these things, they did not apologize, offer to credit me, or offer to pay me, and indicated that this was their general policy in regards to covers of covers. It does not appear that I have a copyright claim, but I’m still investigating the possibility (which I consider likely) that they used some or all of my audio."
So over the weekend Coulton reissed his cover "In the Style of Glee" which you can purchase on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. So far he seems to be getting a lot of support from fans as well as sales that will benefit the VH1 Save The Music Foundation and the It Gets Better Project after licensing expenses.
Coulton also states:
"Maybe this is something that the Glee people would like to give some EXPOSURE. Though, in order to do that they’d have to make some kind of public acknowledgement that I exist. We’ll see! Maybe they’ll even want to match the gesture, and donate all their February proceeds for their version too!"
Given that Coulton's situation has led to the recognition that other artists have been ripped off in a similar manner, I doubt Glee will have a response unless this gets really big.
So let's make this big and remind an over-budgeted mass media vehicle that has profited by upping outcasts that ripping off artists is a fucked up thing to do.