Glee uses Jonathan Coulton cover without permission, composer considering legal action

Monday, 28th January 2013 11:07 GMT By Dave Cook

Glee, the all singing and dancing comedy series by FOX has used one of Jonathan Coulton’s music covers without permissions, prompting the composer to consider legal action against the broadcaster. Coulton, who is known among gamers as the composer of Portal’s eponymous track ‘Still Alive’ is understandably none too pleased.

An update on Coulton’s blog sheds light on the matter, and reveals that the show used his cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’ without first consulting him, paying him, or even crediting him at all. FOX is even selling it on the US iTunes store as part of the Glee soundtrack.

Coulton’s latest update reads, “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.”

There is a side-by-side comparison of both versions of the track here – as created by Coulton.

What do you make of FOX’s use of the track and claim that Coulton should be happy for the ‘secret’ exposure? Let us know below.

Thanks Gi.Biz.



  1. The Auracle

    You can’t use portions of someone else’s work when you write articles so how exactly is music any different. Even if your using interpolations of an original work, you absolutely have to cite where you got those interpolations from.

    FOX is on some bullshit, I think. He can’t sue but surely FOX should at least shout Jonathan out and thank him. The only reason people even know it’s his track is because he pulled them up on it and had to publicly announce that it was his work FOX is making a killing off of.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 yeah dude a thank you would at least have been courteous.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. JPickford

    What’s the videogame connection?

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Froseidon

    @3 – He composes music for Valve.

    It actually says it in the opening paragraph ;)

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @3 yeah he’s a videogame composer.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. xxJPRACERxx

    FOX are a fucking bunch of assholes!

    #6 2 years ago
  7. GwynbleiddiuM

    Well according to what he wrote, I’d be damn pissed if someone did that to me without even crediting me for it.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Clupula

    Well, they didn’t play his cover of “Baby Got Back,” what they did was blatantly rip off the arrangement he used for his version of it. With the exception of the guy on Glee using auto-correct on his voice (which is a whole ‘nother rant from me), it’s pretty much a note-for-note cover of his cover.

    I’m actually surprised, though, that he’d have any legal standing in this, though, since it is not his song, just the arrangement he used for somebody else’s song.

    It’s very shitty what Fox did, but I’m not sure if it’s at all illegal.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. maverikk

    @Clupula: they actually rip off his entire cover. The iTunes version includes the line that Jonathan Coulton replaced. “Johnny C’s in trouble” instead of the original “Mix-A-lot’s in trouble”.

    His cover is under a creative commons license, so any one can edit or modify as they wish as long its not for a commercial purpose.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Clupula

    Oh, I didn’t say they didn’t rip off the cover. They completely did. But it isn’t his performance of it, unless there’s an article I haven’t read somewhere that says it is.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. theevilaires

    I hate FOX and for this I think I’ll go shopping on KickassT and “sample” everything they ever put out.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. NeoSquall

    ” The iTunes version includes the line that Jonathan Coulton replaced. “Johnny C’s in trouble” instead of the original “Mix-A-lot’s in trouble”.”

    That pretty much identifies the song as Johnny’s performance.

    #12 2 years ago

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