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Kind of ironic that plagiarism is the subject of the week in the class I'm teaching.

Years ago, Jonathan Coulton, an indie musician who has plenty of fans in our household, (took a moment out of his busy schedule to give Daughter a big hug and pose for a pic with her at Ohayocon once!) released a soft rock version of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back". He got the proper permissions and paid the proper royalties.

Last week, Fox's show Glee featured the same song on their episode Sadie Hawkins Day. Contacted, did paperwork, and made financial arrangements with Mix. But USED Coulton's unique mix. No acknowledgement in the credits, no payment to Coulton, and they didn't ask permission.

Some muckety-muck on the Fox/Glee end contacted Coulton to tell him that they were on solid legal ground, and besides, Coulton should be thankful for the exposure this is giving him. Except, without publicly crediting him, how, precisely, can that be called "exposure"?

Here is the post I wrote
, and here's a link to Jonathan Coulton's web site.

Kind of wiped out right lately, but if I can manage it, I'll add a bit more explanation and links to some of the better articles I've seen on this matter. For starters...


Plagiarism vs. Copyright Infringement

Copyright should protect artists like Jonathan Coulton, not Glee & Fox


Jonathan Coulton Explains How Glee Ripped Off His Cover Song — And Why He’s Not Alone

Jonathan Coulton ‘Covers’ Glee’s Ripoff of ‘Baby Got Back,’ Puts It on iTunes, Proceeds Go to Charity


Note the title on that last link--proceeds go to charity. And the more people buy Jonathan Coulton's version of Baby Got Back on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon MP3, the more REAL exposure this talented indie musician will receive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Proceeds to charity (6+ / 0-)

    From JoCo's web site

    http://www.jonathancoulton.com/

    This was posted on January 26. Loathe as I am to include such a long quote, it tells you what you need to know, and I think gives a good peek into what Coulton's motivations here. He COULD have an "angry mob" at the ready, but he's trying to do something positive.

    I’ve released this track as a single – it should be on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play eventually if it’s not already. It’s a cover of Glee’s cover of my cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s song, which is to say it’s EXACTLY THE SAME as my original version. I’m releasing this under the same Harry Fox license I used for the 2005 release, so Mix will get all the royalties due to him. I’ll donate the proceeds from all sales that happen between now and the end of February to two charities: The VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and The It Gets Better Project. (fine print: iTunes will get their cut first of course, then I’ll deduct enough to cover my licensing fees, and split the rest between the two. iTunes sometimes takes a long time to report sales, sometimes even a couple of months, so I won’t be able to do the math and make the donation until I have the numbers. But I’ll let you know when I’ve gotten the amount and made the donation.)

    I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and I’m truly grateful for your support – honestly, this has been a very stressful time, and it means so much to see how many of you are behind me. I’ve been trying to figure out a positive way to channel all this energy. I haven’t asked you guys to take any specific action throughout this thing, but now I am asking: buy the track, give it some stars, leave a comment (please be civil), and tell everyone you can. Call it a form of protest, awareness raising, viral PR hackitude, whatever you like. I don’t know how big this will get, but there’s a potential to make a lot of noise this way – imagine if this thing charts! And failing that, we will create some real world impact by raising a lot of money for two great causes that are directly related to the Glee brand. There’s your win-win.

    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!

  •  unless it's in credit i always miss (0+ / 0-)

    glee doesn't really credit any song... they kind just start singing and you're left to recognize it.

  •  I knew a visual artist (5+ / 0-)

    who had her version of a Jim Morrison portrait used by Oliver Stone without credit in his movie. He waltzed gracefully around giving her any credit, as well as telling her that the unattributed exposure would do her career good.
    Copyright law, like current patent law, seems to favour bigger players, no matter which side of the controversy they are on.

    "We are monkeys with money and guns". Tom Waits

    by northsylvania on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:32:04 AM PST

  •  The only story I personally know like this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, absdoggy, JesseCW, dewtx

    is worse.  I will leave all the names out, as it happened a long time ago, and I was not involved in any way other than having been made aware that it happened.

    A friend of my brother's composed an instrumental song.  He was a teenager in college.  He sent the song along to a musician he admired and respected, without having copywrited it, and asked his opinion.  The artist copywrited the song in his own name, and released it on an album.  The song sold over 3 million copies and was nominated for a Grammy.  The biggest seller of the artist's career, by a long shot.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:42:32 AM PST

    •  Your brother's friend had the copyright (6+ / 0-)

      That is pretty much automatic if there was a recording or sheet music - which there had to be for him to "send" it somewhere.  He apparently failed to register it, but depending on circumstances could have still had a case to challenge the theft if there were strong enough evidence that he had the song before the performer did.

      "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

      by Catte Nappe on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:52:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  true (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, Deep Texan, dewtx, Sylv

        In the U.S.  a song, poem, whatever, is copyrighted the moment is set into "fixed form" - which means written down, recorded, etc. It doesn't have to registered with the Library of Congress, it doesn't need the little circled "c". Registering it does help as evidence if you have to take somebody to court over infringement.

        Some people do this thing called the "poor man's copyright registration". They put a copy of the song, poem, whatever, in a sealed envelope and mail it to themselves, never opening the envelope  unless needed to in court. The postmark helps in dating the item, but the evidence isn't considered as strong as registering it with L.C.

        These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

        by HugoDog on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 09:43:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  True now. Not before about 1985. (0+ / 0-)

          the u.s. signed onto the Bern Convention around then.

          Prior to that, while you could win stolen song/works cases, you had to submit a form and a copy of the material. In 1979 I had to send a copy of an EP record along with Form SR to the government.

          Form SR was for, wait for it, Sound Recordings. Prior to that, sheet music / a musical score was required.

          Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

          by dadadata on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 01:58:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  It might be a lot worse than just biting his (0+ / 0-)

    arrangement.

     http://geeklikemetoo.blogspot.com/...

    There is an argument being advanced that they may have actually lifted his recording.

    "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

    by JesseCW on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 09:34:43 AM PST

  •  Does Coulton hold the copyright? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster

    They are only obligated to get permission from the copyright holder directly, or their representative (such as ASCAP, BMI, etc). You can be sure that the network got a Synch license for the material. That has to be standard operating procedure for that show. There is no reason that the song writer would necessarily know about this usage prior to receiving the royalty check next year - if they don't hold the copyright they might not ever find out. Legally, that is A-OK.

    These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

    by HugoDog on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 09:37:44 AM PST

    •  As far as I understand (0+ / 0-)

      A new arrangement of  copyrighted song is considered a derivative work and the original songwriter remains the copyright holder.

      •  Not if just got a statutory license, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HugoDog

        which would deprive him of any copyright in a derivative work.

        http://madisonian.net/...

      •  that's true. (0+ / 0-)

        The songwriter may have sold the copyright, however, or it may have been a work for hire.

        But yes, the derivative work may have its own separate copyright.  This is even in the case when the original is in the public domain. So if you are using a specific arrangement, you might need to get clearance for the original song and for the arrangement.

        Also, and this doesn't apply in this case, but a performance can also have a separate copyright. So if you are using a recording of a song, you need to get clearance from both the songwriter, and the performer (or their respective agents).

        These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

        by HugoDog on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 10:36:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It may apply. (0+ / 0-)

          From the linked article above, it seems that there is a possibility that the Glee people used Coulton's actual recording of the song, or part of it, in putting together their recording.  Apparently, all that's available of the Glee track is an mp3, and the compression makes it difficult to determine if it's Coulton's track or just a sound-alike.

          •  It would be hard for me to imagine (0+ / 0-)

            that the network doesn't have somebody who's main job, or at least a significant part of their job, is the necessary licenses.  I know in my case I've had performances of my music that I knew nothing about until my checks from SOCAN came through. Don't have any idea how the performers got my stuff, but it was very legal, they received permission to do it by working with SOCAN, and I happily cashed the checks.

            These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

            by HugoDog on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:31:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  cracked.com did an article about this recently (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, Sylv

    I'm at work and cracked.com is blocked here, or I'd post the link.

    The article talks in depth about Glee stealing the arrangement and even has a video of both versions playing simulaneously - Glee out of one speaker and Coulton out of the other speaker. They are identical.

    Resuming episode.

    My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

    by pucklady on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 09:44:30 AM PST

  •  It seems to be impossible (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill W, Catte Nappe

    to make money on record sales nowadays, even if you do own the copyright.

    I saw this article recently about how much artists make when music is played across streaming services like Spotify or Pandora.

    The article is by a musician in the band Galaxie 500.

    Consider Pandora and Spotify, the streaming music services that are becoming ever more integrated into our daily listening habits. My BMI royalty check arrived recently, reporting songwriting earnings from the first quarter of 2012, and I was glad to see that our music is being listened to via these services. Galaxie 500's "Tugboat", for example, was played 7,800 times on Pandora that quarter, for which its three songwriters were paid a collective total of 21 cents, or seven cents each. Spotify pays better: For the 5,960 times "Tugboat" was played there, Galaxie 500's songwriters went collectively into triple digits: $1.05 (35 cents each).
    •  That's horrible. (1+ / 0-)

      It says something about the shamefully low value we place on artists today, and I think our future will be culturally poorer because of it.

      •  It does make you wonder (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill W, Catte Nappe

        what the future of the music industry will be. What is the incentive nowadays to become a musician, other than as a hobby?

        I guess you just have to make money on touring and merchandise sales because you sure aren't going to make any money selling records.

        Even when songs are downloaded legally through iTunes, the band typically makes 10 percent while Apple gets 35% and the label gets 55%.

        •  touring & merchandise (2+ / 0-)

          That's true, and I often see the file-sharing apologists suggesting that should be how musicians of the future make a living.  What it ignores is that not all music can be performed publicly, even if the artist wanted to go that route. Some of the Beatles best music existed only as a product of the recording studio and never could have been performed live.

          What I want to know is why a good songwriter should earn less money than a good commodities trader.  Which one is contributing more to our society?

          •  ITA (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe, Bill W

            Artists deserve to be paid for their work.

            I guess it is not unlike what has happened to journalism in the internet age, or stock photography. I know someone who is a photographer and worked at a stock photo lab, but it went out of business because nowadays you can just click around online and easily find a photo and download it for free.

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