The Jonathan Coulton and Glee Debacle
Well, it’s all over the internet by now, but here’s what’s going on in case you just woke up or whatever:
This morning, nerd musician Jonathan Coulton–the creative mind behind “Still Alive” and “Want You Gone”, the end credit themes from Portal and Portal 2–reported that an unnamed friend pointed out to him this page from the Glee wiki. The page references this song–a cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”–which is reportedly featured in episode 11 of season 4 of Glee, airing later this month. JoCo also has a cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”. The problem is, Glee’s cover of “Baby Got Back” is strikingly similar–some say nearly identical–to JoCo’s cover. After being made aware of this, Coulton tweeted, “Hey look, @GLEEonFOX ripped off my cover of Baby Got Back: [url removed]. Never even contacted me. Classy.”
…and that’s about it. That’s all anyone really knows because nobody from FOX or Glee has issued any statements on the situation.
The whole thing is kind of confusing. It’s a cover of a cover and neither of them are like the original in any way except for the actual lyrics. However, slight lyrical changes, the melody, even the tempo are exactly the same in both of these covers. The vocals are obviously by different people, but played side-by-side they’re mostly in unison.
Soon after his statement on Twitter, Coulton further elaborated in a blog post on what exactly the issue is (or may be):
It’s a cover of a Sir Mix-a-Lot song obviously, but I wrote a new melody for it, which this recording uses. Back when I released it, I bought the statutory license to distribute my version of this song through Harry Fox. Creative Commons doesn’t come into play because it’s a cover song, and anyway my CC license specifies Non-Commercial.
A complicating factor is that, to my ears, it sounds like it actually uses the audio from my recording – not the vocals obviously, but the instruments sound EXTREMELY similar. And I could swear I hear the duck quack somewhere in the background there, though it’s hard to say if that’s just my ears expecting it.
We’ll keep this story updated as it develops. In the meantime, you can check out a side-by-side of Coulton’s and Glee’s covers and decide for yourself if Coulton’s song has been “ripped off”.