I always tell myself I’m going to write a blog post, but rarely does something impact me enough to want to share it with others via the internet. Except cute kittens, because… I’m only human, right?
Tonight, however, I read about something that accomplished just that very thing. Before I get into the details, I want to encourage everyone to investigate this story after you’re finished reading. I always research when I read about a story like this, but it’s always a good idea to do the same, and form your own opinion.
Most people have probably heard of the Fox hit, Glee, and know the basic premise of the show. A group of dysfunctional high school students choose to be unpopular because of their inexplicable love for singing hit pop songs. Oops, I believe my biases are showing– but I digress.
Tonight’s episode included a song by the title of Baby Got Back, originally performed by Sir-Mix-A-Lot, but covered by a gentleman by the name of Jonathan Coulton. You may or may not have heard of Coulton, admittedly I had not before I read about this story, but that’s beside the point. Coulton wrote his own melody for the song, which Fox chose to use for their show. The issue? They neither asked, nor credited, Coulton for his work. To take it one step further, though to my knowledge nothing has been proven, Fox may have used the audio from Coulton’s actual track.
You can be sure Fox gets permission to use anyone’s music when they believe them to be successful enough to actually cause a problem for them otherwise. So why not ask for permission now? I can’t say, I don’t have any secret insight into their company, but do I think it’s right? Not at all.
I think this is a growing epidemic in our world. One we largely ignore because we would be inconvenienced to do otherwise. I freely admit that I am no different– these large conglomerates are run by greedy, unethical people who gladly step on the little guy, or ignore him altogether, to advance themselves in the world– but to boycott them would mean giving up things we enjoy in our day-to-day lives.
I can’t say what I’m going to do about this, personally, except to get the word out; I haven’t watched the show since Season 1 ended. This isn’t the first time Glee has used another artist’s music without permission, however. Last year, they used Greg Laswell’s cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, in the same manner. Laswell chose not to pursue the matter as he gained exposure from the incident. That doesn’t excuse them from repeating the offence.
I’ve seen people argue that Coulton should feel the same; that he should accept Fox’s treatment because he is getting more exposure. To these people, I would ask if he would have received less recognition had Fox simply credited him for the hard work he put into writing this melody.
I don’t know how you feel about this, but I believe Fox’s behaviour is deplorable, to put it nicely. I sincerely hope that they will fix their behaviour and apologize to Jonathan Coulton for not speaking to him or acknowledging his work, before using his cover of Baby Got Back.
For further info on this controversy, check out Jonathan Coulton vs Glee version: https://soundcloud.com/alacrion/joco-v-glee
And Wired’s coverage: http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/01/jonathan-coulton-glee-song/
Os is a 24 year old nerd who given the money and resources could be Batman. He can be reached on twitter @Os_blogger. His first post is about his trip to Scotland.