Glee is the Answer When Questions Are Wrong: That Glee Thing

edited January 2013 in JoCo Fame
Forking off a thread now so this discussion doesn't get lost in the JoCo in the Media thread.

If you're joining us late, @BrettGlass gives a good summary of the controversy in the original post:
Twitter and various blogs are abuzz with the news that Glee has ripped off JoCo's setting of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" without so much as attribution. What's more, it looks as if they used the Karaoke backing track from his Web site, or the similar track from his USB drive! 

(I haven't got time to collate links right now, but there's lots of good stuff in that thread. Please feel free to link/crosspost them here.)


  • Regarding how JoCo should be "glad for the exposure". I obviously do not speak for him, but I imagine he very likely might be glad for the exposure if they had just talked to him first and credited him in some way. How is the average Glee watcher supposed to even know where that arrangement came from? As others mentioned, how likely is it now that someone hearing JoCo's version for the first time will think he's "ripping off" Glee? Even with all this news coverage I bet 95% of Glee's audience has no awareness of this controversy.

  • Glee should totally cover this song:

  • Gleevery: (noun) The act of misappropriating another's creative content for use on a TV show.
  • Gabe of Penny Arcade has chimed on twitter:
    "@cwgabriel: I hope you all get prostate cancer and if you don't have a prostate I hope you get something equally bad. @GLEEonFOX"

    If PA seriously gets in on this action, FOX are going to get into a shitstorm like they don't even know. That's when it'll start viral'ing, and then there's a pretty good chance that FOX's competitor news-networks will pick up the story. And that's when their smug, arrogant, asshole backs will finally be against the wall.
  • I guess we haven't reached true viral level yet, but this story has already been publicized on Gawker, Boing Boing, Jezebel, Kotaku, The Onion AV Club, Slate, and Salon, among others.

    Slate and Salon aren't NBC, but they are about as mainstream as you can get re: online news.

    So I'm not sure what a public-interest piece on CNN or MSNBC ("Did Fox's Glee steal from another artist? Come back after the break to find out!") would actually do.
  • edited January 2013
    Now that the episode has aired and the cover is on iTunes it's gone past the point of Fox allegedly stealing into them actually stealing, so these next couple days will determine if this spirals its way into a shitstorm.
  • The prostate cancer comment is out of line, but other than that I hope Penny Arcade does get involved...  I hope everyone gets involved!   What a bunch of scumbags. 

    I watched my first 10 minutes or so of Glee ever last night by the way.  It seems to be as awful a show as you probably imagined...
  • I apparently mistakenly responded to the incorrect thread - X-post from JoCo in the Media thread.

    Thanks @Bry! :)

    If making a "parody" makes the content less copy-writable (please let me know if I misunderstood that portion of@paulandstorm [P]'s comment), what does this mean for Weird Al? Are all of his works now suddenly able to be reproduced without his permission? I know that he is slightly different, since he uses the same tune, with different words, but it made me wonder.
  • @sunnytana No, it actually makes Al's content MORE copyrightable. If the work is considered "fair use," then the elements unique to that "fair use" instance--new lyrics, new arrangement, etc.--are protected by copyright. The original composition remains copyright-protected for the original owner.

    So if you wanted to re-record and release a Weird Al parody, you would need both permission form the original song's copyright owner, and Weird Al's permission. (Unless your re-recording would ITSELF be a parody of the Weird Al version)

    So even though he doesn't "need" to for his parodies, Weird Al also gets permission from the original artists so that he gets permission to create a "derivative work" (as described in my earlier post). That way he's covered both ways; even if a Weird Al version might not be considered a "fair use" parody, he's still got permission to create the derivative work.

    It's very confusing, I know.

  • edited January 2013
    Very much so. This is all so crazy to me.

    Thanks for your help!
  • Does anyone know which advertisers had spots on Glee this week?  I'd like to write to them and explain why I won't be purchasing anything from them.  
  • This tweet from author Saladin Ahmed is surreal and brilliant.
  • Also, I don't know if anyone saw this in the comments under the blog post, but Reesa Graham made a petition today: Fox Media and Glee: Stop using the work of artists without crediting them.

    It's up to 63 supporters as I type this post.
  • It looks like their definition of giving Jonathan exposure that he should be happy about is passively giving the phrase 'Glee ripped off Jonathan Coulton' a lot of exposure and never being associated with him in any other context. It's like they're exposure suicide bombers.
  • In the Wired article today, JoCo said he is unlikely to have any legal recourse... There is still "another chapter to come" regarding the possible use of his audio directly, though.
  • So the next time someone goes on trial for torrenting Fox IP, the appropriate defense is, "Fox should be grateful for the exposure."
  • I hope Glee doesn't find this other fantastic cover, Gin and Juice performed by The Gourds.

    Yes, JoCo has other great covers... I felt like quite the n00b again today when I discovered his Alanis Morissette cover that I didn't know about.
  • Here's what I find confusing, and haven't seen discussed much - when I listen to the audio of the songs played together, I can hear only one banjo line. People have been talking about hand claps and duck quacks, but this is the most damning part to me. They couldn't have had someone play the banjo EXACTLY like it sounds in Jonathan's version, could they have? 
  • I got the feeling the banjo track made it pretty obvious they used his tracks (somebody said they even made the same subtle mistakes in playing it) but he was looking for the quack for proof because who would copy a duck quack? Though it's not even necessary to prove anything considering the individual tracks are available (on the JoCo Looks Back Creative Commons drive.)
  • The thing about both that Gourds cover and Joco's cover(s) is something that I think is a key difference between a good cover and a bad one:  They both seem to genuinely like the songs they are covering, i.e. they are not doing the cover purely to mock the original song. (Though, hey, maybe that's an entirely false read in Joco's case, but it's not the impression I get at least.) Especially in cases like this of "white guys doing rap songs" which could easily devolve into some sort of blackface routine or "look how stupid these rap guys act and look!" or some sort of 2 Live Jews type schtick if it was purely "hey, let's make a joke out of this thing we don't understand".

    I have something of a fascination with hearing one artist do a different interpretation of another artists' work, so I have something of a collection of covers built up myself over the years. Until this recent fooferaw I had no idea how complicated the rights situation around them was, especially since "straight" unaltered covers are almost always the most uninteresting.

  • JoCo's "Baby Got Back" isn't just a white cover; it's a pasty white cover, the kind of white that doesn't get much sunlight.  It's self-deprecating in its whiteness, laughing at itself more than the original, and is a satire of how "covering" used to work: with different renditions of a song being recorded for white and black audiences.  Bluegrass covers are their own flavor of weirdness, independent of race IMHO; consider "Rodeohead" by Hard 'n Phirm.  It's basically the same joke as "Gin and Juice," but with no racial element.
  • This is confirmed: Hulu Plus is on Team JoCo:

  • edited January 2013
    When I first heard about the Glee ripoff, the first thing I compared between the track they published and JoCo's was not the banjo part but the drum part. Why? Because it's nearly impossible for the same drummer to play the same track exactly the same way twice... much less exactly duplicate someone else's, which will likely use a different kit with a different physical arrangement and drums with different pitches. As anyone who's tried it will tell you, it's really, really hard to tune even an identical drum kit to match another. If Glee had used its own drummer, it wouldn't have been feasible to duplicate the exact kit JoCo used and make it sound exactly like the one in JoCo's recording, with every beat at exactly the same time and same pitch and duration. And why would anyone bother anyway? It just isn't important to the quality of the result.

    Yet, in my analysis, I quickly saw that the drum tracks were identical. To the millisecond. And so were the drum pitches. Exactly.

    I looked at the banjo part afterward, and, yes, it was the same too. But it's the drum track that really leaves no doubt. They used JoCo's backing track. They mixed in voices, etc., but they couldn't hide this. It's the smoking gun, even more than the muted quack. It's not just one piece of evidence, it's thousands in one neat package.

    As Paul has mentioned, regardless of the copyright status of the melody, lyrical alterations, arrangement, etc., JoCo owns his performance. And Fox didn't license it from him before copying it.
  • @BrettGlass While I don't know 100% that he used it in this case, I know Jonathan used quite a lot of Reel Drums loops when making most of the Thing a Week songs. So in fact, the drum part *could* have been replicated exactly.

    Which is not to say I don't still believe that they just flat-out used his backing tracks; it's highly unlikely they reconstructed his drum parts note for note using a 7 year old drum sample program.

    But it's the parts he played live--the banjo and mandolin--that really reveal it. As he's said, if they had someone re-record those parts, they even put in the mistakes he made. :)

  • edited January 2013
    @paulandstorm [P]: If Jonathan used a 7-year-old drum machine program or plug-in, especially one that randomizes the timing or the riffs (I use Band-in-a-Box, whose "RealDrums" feature can string sampled riffs together in randomized sequences), the chances of Fox coming up with exactly the same sequence itself -- even if they were able to figure out what program he used, which is itself extremely unlikely -- would be nonexistent. The probability goes down exponentially with every single beat. And why would they try? The track wouldn't sound any worse if they used slightly different drums.

    That being said, you are absolutely right about the banjo and mandolin parts. They are also the same, slips and all.

    If Jonathan wants to assemble a forensics team to document similarities between any of these parts in the two published tracks, I'd be glad to participate. It would not be hard to turn out a really big spreadsheet or database with a list of the note events, their pitches, and their timings showing a correlation that would convince a jury.

    I'll also bet that Dr. Demento -- who has credentials as a musicologist -- would be willing to show up and testify that Jonathan's setting was indeed a humorous parody, and that this is why he played it on his comedy music show.
  • This is off-topic, but does anyone know where to get the song 'Rodeohead' that @mtgordon linked to? It isn't actually on Horses and Grasses, and there's a link to an mp3 here but I clicked the link a while ago and it is still preparing to download, so maybe the link is broken. Hard 'N Phirm seem to have so many secret non-album songs. :/
  • Angela, take another look at Horses and Grasses. Rodeohead is track 10. And now that I've got my copy of the CD out, I know what I'm subjecting my minions at work to today.
  • I have El Corazýn as track 10. My copy was bought from the Swiss iTunes store and has 13 tracks. Wikipedia says there are 15 tracks. :( I also don't have Fitter Clappier, which I presume is also a Radiohead parody, so maybe they didn't have permission to release them here because of that.
  • I've got an extra copy of the physical CD that I can bring you on the boat if you'd like.
  • Oooooh, that would be nice!
  • I has been added to my packing list. This is exactly why I have a tendency to buy multiple copies of things from my favorite artists.
  • @Angelastic It's not included in iTunes for licensing reasons, but it's a free download.
  • edited January 2013
    Not to tweet my own horn or anything, but I've made an attempt to point out what a PR nightmare this is for the Glee creators and Fox TV using the web app Let Me Google That For You. (Click on the link in the tweet.)

    I got the idea from another JoCo fan on Twitter, but I can't find the tweet as it was a couple of days ago.
  • Thanks @mtgordon, the mp3 link works on that one. :)
  • "As of this writing, Sir Mix-a-Lot has not responded on his own Twitter account."

    So... CNN couldn't Facebook-message him to get his opinion?
  • @Blue - "Calls to 1-900-MIX-A-LOT were not returned."
  • Has Mix-a-lot actually heard JoCo's cover? It would be funny if this debacle brought it to his attention and he endorsed it and put some of his fans onto JoCo.
  • @Angelastic If so, I would like to see a video similar to this, "Snoop Dogg likes Gin and Juice by The Gourds".
  • New blog post has Jonathan taking the high road. What a great way to handle a shitty situation.
  • @paulandstorm Can we use "Baby Got Back" from JoCo Karaoke as an "everyone on stage" thing?
  • edited January 2013
    @Angelastic Mix-A-Lot may not have heard Coulton's version but he is aware of it. I saw a retweet the other day but I can't find it now of someone who had sent him a link to the Downfall Bunker scene. Mix-A-Lot had responded saying it was hilarious. I thought is was Roop that retweeted but I cannot find it now.

    Here is the youtube link if you haven't seen it.

    eta: Petition now stands at 131 including me.

    also eta: As I understand it, JoCo cannot claim copyright on his cover because of the license he bought although the black art defence of fair use might apply this is one that can flip either way in court so would not be one to bet the wife on. The question would be if his tracks are used themselves. Now JoCo put these tracks out as Karaoke versions without lyrics sometime ago, so that would establish copyright to the tracks themselves wouldn't it? I know they were limited in availability but that wouldn't make a difference so long as they were sold prior to the infringement? So JoCo definitely has copyright claim to them so regardless of how Glee put together their version, even if, implausible as it may seem, they did manage to put together exact duplicates without using the source and left in a ghost quack as a nod to the original cover, they would still in breach of copyright as JoCo's arrangement existed as a stand alone copyrighted object before Glee's release?

    Sorry for all the eta's. I'll stop now.
  • So re: the backing tracks: if this was TV, the lawyers would go to Fox and say "I demand you show me the backing tracks you created, to prove you didn't steal them!"

    Or maybe the one sexy nerd character would run a scan on some Fox sound guy's computer and say "I can prove he didn't use new backup tracks, because see, his first save was like 2 seconds after he opened the file but all of these waveforms were already in the save and he couldn't have made them in 2 seconds."

    Obviously this is not TV.

    But is this the sort of thing that could legally happen?
  • I was just checking the iTunes Charts. Coulton's BGB is at 232 & Glee's is at 216. JoCo is catching up!
  • Purchased. Again. :)
  • Can I just say how much I love @joco's "Glee" picture!? :)
  • JoCo's cover has passed Glee's BGB and is now at 175. Go go JoCo!
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