A recent episode of Glee included a cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back which was a blatant ripoff of Jonathan Coulton’s several-year-old version — much to Jonathan Coulton’s surprise, since he was neither contacted nor credited. Fox’s stubborn refusal to admit their wrongdoing towards Johnathan Coulton raises questions about the integrity of Glee. How many of Glee’s other covers are ripoffs of lesser-known artists’ work? I refuse to support the show anymore, and am sorry I ever did.
The open letter below wasn’t written by me. I’m reposting it with permission, because it eloquently expresses how I feel about this incident. The orignal is here. If you like it, spread it around. When I asked permission, I was told, “Blog away! We just want to get the message out!”
An Open Letter to Glee’s Executives
I am a long time fan of Glee. I have watched Glee since its inception. I have bought Glee on Blu-Ray. Glee is probably my television show. The episode aired on January 24th 2013 entitled Sadie Hawkins will be the last episode of Glee I will watch.
I am a lawyer, recently qualified, and understand the laws of intellectual property. I understand the limitations of musicians intellectual property rights. With this in mind, the moral consequences of stealing someone’s idea goes beyond legal ramifications. The television show Glee explicitly espouses the ideals of a society that accepts and prizes individuality and creativity in the arts. The facts that I uncovered after watching this episode of Glee have shown me that the show merely pays lip-service to these ideals, with no real belief in them.
It was drawn to my attention that the arrangement of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back performed in the aforementioned episode was, in fact, written and previously performed by Jonathan Coulton. I know little of Mr. Coulton’s music, having only heard one or two of his songs from his back catalogue. Following a brief internet search I uncovered evidence that shocked and disappointed. Mr. Coulton’s 2005 release sounds, to the untrained ear, completely identical to the performance in the aforementioned episode. During the credit roll of the episode “musical score composition and production” is credited to James S. Levine, PJ Bloom is credited as “music supervisor”, David Klotz is credited as “music editor” and Blaine Cline is credited as “music production supervisor”. There was absolutely no mention of, or thank-you to, Mr. Coulton who obviously, at the very least, inspired the rendition of Baby Got Back.
After viewing this episode, I visited Mr. Coulton’s website, to see if he had any comments. It appears that either someone from the production company, or their legal department has been in touch with Mr. Coulton. He summarizes their position as :
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.” JONATHANCOULTON.COM
If Mr. Coulton is accurate in his description, I hate to think that every unique cover which has been undertaken by the cast of Glee over the past three (3) and a half seasons has been arranged and performed by an unknown musician, and that that unknown musician has received absolutely no acknowledgement.
I do not pretend to understand the inner workings of the music industry. However, I do suppose that it is an extremely elite and notoriously difficult industry to be successful in. With this in mind, I have watched the characters (namely Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, etc.) attempt to succeed in the musical theatre and popular music industry. The writers of Glee attempt to create a world where talent is recognized, appreciated and rewarded. Unfortunately, it seems that these ideals are not only not upheld, but actively undermined by the executive branch of the show.
I am aware of the fact that one person taking a moral stance will not make a difference to Glee’s bottom line. But it has to start somewhere.
Miss M. Racine, BA, LLB.