Original “Baby Got Back” Arranger Releases “Cover of Glee Cover” for Charity

This week’s Glee Sadie Hawkins” episode became mired in controversy, when performer and internet geek, Jonathan Coulton, accused Glee of stealing his arrangement of the Sir Mix Alot tune, “Baby Got Back”

Well, the thing is…yeah. they did. And considering the folks at Glee are in the business of covering other artists’ music, they knew exactly where they stood legally on the issue. It’s not the first time the show has “borrowed” an arrangement. In season 3, Cory Monteith sang a slowed up version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” that was similar to an arrangement by Greg Laswell.

Check out Coulton’s original arrangement vs. Glee’s

So when Glee peeps finally responded back to Coulton, the message was “get over it.”

MORE MORE UPDATE 1/25: Well, they aired it, seemingly unchanged. And it’s now for sale in the US iTunes store. They also got in touch with my peeps to basically say that they’re within their legal rights to do this, and that I should be happy for the exposure (even though they do not credit me, and have not even publicly acknowledged that it’s my version – so you know, it’s kind of SECRET exposure). While they appear not to be legally obligated to do any of these things, 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. It does not appear that I have a copyright claim, but I’m still investigating the possibility (which I consider likely) that they used some or all of my audio. I’ll write something longer and more detailed about this when I can get my head together about it probably in a couple of days. Thanks for your support, but please continue not to burn anything down.

Anyhoo. This story has somewhat of a silver lining. Coulton may feel ripped off, but he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. He’s releasing a cover of the Glee cover of his cover (Hee) to iTunes. All proceeds will go to VH1 Save the Music Foundation  and the It Gets Better Project.

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.)

Check out this link for information on how to download the song.

All Coulton wants at this point is public acknowledgement by the Glee people that they did, in fact, use his arrangement. Also, he thinks it would be a fab gesture if Glee donated the proceeds of their “Baby Got Back” cover to the same charities. But he’s not holding his breath.

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Founder and editor of mjsbigblog.com, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted.I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!
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  • Axxxel

    For those (like me) who were oblivious about the “Girls just wanna have fun” controversy  http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/glee-girls-wanna-fun-cyndi-lauper-271995

  • supersonic

    Telling the guy that he should be happy for the exposure is straight up a-hole of them and makes me wonder why people support this show.

  • Incipit

    Telling the guy that he should be happy for the exposure is straight up a-hole of them and makes me wonder why people support this show.

    A. I don’t support the show.
    B. Any exposure is because he called them out, and proved it was lifted – they certainly gave him no credit for the arrangement. What would that cost them?

    C. Disgusted at their entitled attitude –  “We are Glee, and you are not. Sucks to be you.”


  • Miz

    Reprehensible! I have a lot more to say, but I’m having trouble choosing the right words.

    Kudos to Johnathan Coulton for fighting back with charity!

  • jennyl2

    1) It was not classy not to credit the guy and respond the way they did. 
    2) I don’t think Glee makes it a point to mention original/otherwise singers in every cover they do. 
    3) Baby Got Back was not a great cover. Didn’t buy Glee’s version either.
    4) What can I say, I still love the show.

  • Tess

    god, i wish this show would die. Not that it affects me in any way it is just the principle of the thing.  I hate that they have taken music, really good music, and butchered it for the sake of ratings and dollars, and that the gullible audience for the show embraces it as something good, if not great. Between Glee and the X-Factor I have turned off Fox, probably for good.  Sucks for American Idol.

  • jennyl2

    I don’t consider myself gullible. lol! The show is not perfect and it is not the end and the beginning that people make it out to be. If the sentiment is like what a lot of ppl on this blog says, its a failing show that may not last for many more years. So, it’s a really small blep to bear with for a little while more. 

    If principles are the yardstick in TV shows and Hollywood movies, believe me, I would have to stopped watching a lot of them a long while ago.  

  • Axxxel

    No matter how they butcher songs. they introduced me to new music because I live under a rock since the 1990s… Where else can I find in one  program a 50 year up old love song, next to a Bruno Mars song and a song of which they took an arrangement without acknowledging the creator of the arrangement ? The old, the new and the scandalous… Ouch,sounds like a reality show…

    ETA: I also think Glee did not mention that they used the “slowed down -accross the universe movie version” of the Beatles’s song ” I wanna hold your hand”.

  • Axxxel

    Yeah, I guess  Glee will keep ignoring these things until the bitter end… Season 5, I presume ?

  • Jaejae1

    Hmmm. I can’t see any reason to credit a non commercial cover of a well known song.  I mean the only acknowledgment needs to go to Sir Mix-a-lot and I am sure the guy didn’t pay anything to HIM to cover his song in the first place.  Practically everyone has youtubes up of them singing someone’s song. And I don’t know if I would be stepping forward to claim credit for that horrible arrangement.  But is WAS funny in the show.  

  • jeffreyd95821

    Considering that the song and its arrangement are basically being panned by everyone as a WTF moment, I’m thinking he just wants attention, any attention, whether it’s good or not. Sure enough, he’s getting it. It’ll be ancient history in a week. 

  • Incipit

    Interesting double standard here. Whether the arrangement was good or bad or well-known (It was not) is hardly the point; Coulton wrote it as a parody…and the Glee producers who used it couldn’t have missed it was a parody. If it WAS well-known, the audience also would have recognized that Glee was ‘borrowing”…as they often do when the show does this. And no one gets bent out of shape when they know what’s going on. 

    But Glee was willing to let their audience think they were ‘just that clever’ to write the arrangement themselves, and use the little details just as he did, perhaps even lifting some parts intact. And they then told the actual arranger to suck up and deal, in essence. (Because they are Glee, and he is not.)

    I wonder if the same people who had a problem with Beyonce for initially letting people think her SSB was all live, all the time also see that Glee was allowing people to think this was their invention.

    In both cases, the actual act is not as offensive as the willingness to take credit that is not due, and in this instance, act as if the person is crazy to expect even a nod..and yet – the public reactions are not the same at all.

    Yes, both stories will be ancient history in a week, but still – Double Standard much? 

    I think so.

  • Kirsten

    IDK. Perhaps the producers see this as a slippery slope argument.

    As others have pointed out, there are gazillions of covers out there. I’m sure every time Glee does a new song, whether it is their own version or something they stole, there is probably six people who say “Hey, that cover is a total rip-off of the cover I did,”

    Now, in this case it clearly is a rip-off, but if Glee acknowledges it, all the others who were “ripped-off” will want recognition as well. And if you are formally recognizing them, maybe you should pay them as well.

    Glee doesn’t have to legally credit or pay for covering covers (just the originals), so they can save a lot of headaches by never crediting them. Then they never have to deal with competing claims and never have to pay.

    Every time an Idol pulls a twist on a cover, there seems to be some band claiming they were ripped off. If the Idol admits the rip-off, they are forever tarred. If they claim to have invented the version themselves, many will still claim they are liars. Sometimes, youtubes exist of the “original” cover and they sound nothing like the Idol’s version.

    So, I can see why Glee might be a little wary even in a case so obvious as this.

    I know that I had never heard of this guy prior to this controversy, so he is deriving a little benefit even if the show didn’t credit him.

  • kirble

    It wasn’t a non-commercial cover; Jonathan Coulton did indeed pay to license the song and released it commercially. 

    Even if that weren’t the case, why shouldn’t they credit the non-commercial cover of a song? The only legitimate reason I can see is that they don’t want to pay anything to these arrangers, and that by acknowledging them they could possibly open themselves up to litigation demanding compensation. 

  • jennyl2

    If Jonathan Coulton has legal rights to the cover, then the legal system should ensure that he and the other arrangers gets paid. 

    Glee has said that they have acted within their legal rights. I don’t see Glee nor any other profit oriented business acting on moral rights when it might not make good business sense and open them up to unnecessary litigation claims.

  • idolgleek92

    I’m about to write a lot, but I don’t care:

    Well apparently I’m just some gullible lemming so what do I know, but I happen to love Glee and it’s “crappy” covers that they “butcher.” And yes I do embrace many of them as great, some fantastic. I’m sorry that you can’t see past the concept and see that not only have they produced some fantastic arrangements (many that were completely original) and have some incredible singers in their cast (Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Naya Rivera, etc.), but they are re-introducing so many genres and time periods of music to a generation that is otherwise too caught up in bubble gum pop, rap with horrible messages, and what the Kardashians are doing next and teaching these people to love this music — both the Glee versions AND the originals. 

    I see no reason why you can’t respect that there are people out there who have been impacted by the message Glee holds at its core and who have been influenced by music that they otherwise might have never heard. In one episode you can get a 60s hit a Top 40 hit a Broadway standard a classic rock song and a mash-up. Not to mention the talented actors who put in so much work and effort, with endless dance rehearsals and recordings just to get to actual filming. Hate the show all you want but respect that there are people who love it and there’s nothing wrong with that; it doesn’t make them gullible and it doesn’t make you superior for turning your nose up at them. 

    I know you almost certainly won’t because you’ll think it’s a waste of your time, but if you have 10 minutes watch this video about the show and its impact: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaClfJbTLpI

    You might think Glee can’t have that kind of impact, but it can. I’ve seen it first-hand. My mom, who’s 60 (and also loves the show), was very homophobic before she she started watching Glee; it was how she’d grown up all her life. You know who her favorite character is? Kurt. Who’s gay. It’s opened her eyes and given her a tolerance and understanding she never had. She now even “ships” him and his (ex)-boyfriend, Blaine. 3 years ago, I would’ve never thought I’d see the day where my mom enjoys seeing two boys in a TV relationship. But I suppose my mom is just another gullible follower of the stupid show that is Glee.

  • mjsbigblog

    I wonder if the same people who had a problem with Beyonce for initially letting people think her SSB was all live, all the time also see that Glee was allowing people to think this was their invention.

    For the record, I don’t blame Coulton for causing a stink. You know, of course, this sort of thing has happened on Idol too, and I think the producers there learned that it’s just easier to give credit where credit is due than to deal with the bad publicity that’s bound to come after when the originals are inevitably dug up on you tube.

    It has nothing to do with what’s is or isn’t a big deal (every body lip syncs! What we did was perfectly legal!) But just giving proper credit so that the work can be judged in the proper context.

  • Incipit

    You know, of course, this sort of thing has happened on Idol too, and I think the producers there learned that it’s just easier to give credit where credit is due than to deal with the bad publicity that’s bound to come after 

    You’re right, I am aware of this happening on Idol, I even have a list…and Idol created their own problem by initially leaving the credits on the cutting room floor, but as you say, they finally did learn.  Even if the audience didn’t always hear the attribution, Idol learned to make one. Glee doesn’t seem to think they ought to.

  • jennyl2

    For the record, I love the show but I don’t think Glee should have responded the way they did to John C. but it’s a little hard for Glee to credit the person on the show itself. It would look weird to write it in the script.

    So, they can : –  a) put it in the credits at the end of the show (which I don’t think anyone looks at)
    b) issue a press release each time they do so (which is also weird and cost money).c) stop using other people’s arrangement (I think this is a better option. I still don’t think they were great arrangements to begin with)

  • Incipit

    jenny12, I don’t see a problem with putting an acknowledgement in the credits; sure, on air those things spin faster than a kids top…but they are searchable, and people whose work is credited know it, and add the fact to their portfolios. 

    If the show is doing one or more press releases every week, and they are, I don’t see how it costs so much to add a mention in with any other musical cites…wouldn’t even take a half a sentence. If they want to convey this is a usual thing to do – then a usual sort of mention in the weekly/daily press releases would do that.

    Nobody seems to be lobbying for a special mention, or even a chyron (now ‘that’ would actually be weird)…just a nod for the arranger’s work – but  the cavalier response from Glee leaves a very bad impression.

    IMO. Of Course.