Did 'Glee' steal Jonathan Coulton's version of 'Baby Got Back'?
Is this stealing? Is it legal but morally reprehensible? Or is "Glee" entirely in the right? A look at the case may help you decide.
The music/Internet fiasco began on Friday (Jan. 18) when Coulton -- an independent singer with a devoted Twitter following (almost 100,000 of them as of this writing) -- tweeted that a "Glee" recording sounded a whole lot like his own cover of the Sir Mix-a-Lot anthem:
"Hey look, @GleeonFOX ripped off my cover of Baby Got Back... Never even contacted me. Classy."
Twitter furor rose yet again when Coulton posted a follow-up to his first tweet:
"After listening, I think that @GLEEonFOX may have even used parts of my recording. Do I hear a duck quack? And of course they say 'Johnny C'"
This last sentence is perhaps the most interesting -- in his cover version of the song, Coulton referred to himself in the first person as Johnny C. The "Glee" version uses the same name, indicating a common source ("Johnny C" appears nowhere in the Sir Mix-a-Lot version).
Coulton has, according to his blog, contacted his lawyers to see if there's a case to be made against "Glee." As he points out, "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."
If "Glee" did indeed take Coulton's recording directly for use on the show, it's definitely an issue. As of Saturday (Jan. 19), the singer had not heard back from "Glee" or FOX.
This isn't the first time that "Glee" has come under fire for using a cover adaptation of an artist's music. In 2011, the show performed Cyndi Lauper's hit, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Only the "Glee" version borrowed more directly from Greg Laswell's ballad-style cover from 2007.
Just how similar are the two songs? You can judge that for yourself. First up, we have Coulton's recording of "Baby Got Back."
Next, check out the "Glee" version, set to appear in episode 11 of season 4, "Sadie Hawkins" (airing on Thursday, Jan. 24).
If you're still not convinced of the similarities, you can listen to both versions simultaneously here.
So are they the same? Is Coulton right about getting ripped off? Does "Glee" have any responsibility to a cover artist with a different version from the original?