Coulton Says Fox Won’t Apologise For Ripping Him Off On Glee

Coulton Says Fox Won’t Apologise For Ripping Him Off On Glee

Songwriter Jonathan Coulton has posted an update on his personal blog in which he says Fox is unrepentant after blatantly stealing his arrangement of “Baby Got Back” for last night’s /”Sadie Hawkins” episode of Glee.

The full update from Coulton’s website:

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 apologise, 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.

If what Coulton says is the whole story, it’s not entirely surprising, given that Fox likely went into this knowing exactly what they were doing. But it sure is dispiriting, especially considering the extreme similarities in the arrangements. They’re essentially identical.

I can’t help but feel like it would have been so easy for Fox to simply reach out with an email, though it sounds like they don’t do that because it’s an acknowledgment of the fact that they’re stealing work in the first place. Furthermore, this also seems like something Fox could fix simply by apologising now, even after the fact. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re not because they don’t want to set a precedent for the future.

In case you’re just coming into this, here’s Coulton’s arrangement, which is from his 2006 album Thing a Week One.

And here’s the full Glee version, which aired last night.

This whole thing is so skeevy. I know a lot of people hate Glee, but I’ve always had a lot of respect for the musical side of the show. I’ve often enjoyed their more creative arrangements and mash-ups, and thought it was often a pretty daring show, especially in the early goings. Whether or not this kind of thing is standard practice for Fox and Glee, this whole Coulton affair makes me wonder what other artists they’ve been stealing from over the years.

I’ve asked Coulton if he has any further comment, and have once again reached out to Fox for comment (they have yet to respond to any of our emails). We’ll update as we hear back.

For more, read our original story, and watch last night’s Glee performance here.


  • Why is this on a gaming website? I’ve defended intellectual articles about gaming before but this LITERALLY has nothing to do with video games.

    EDIT: I linked to the original article and I see he wrote Still Alive. Still, this is a bit of a stretch.

    • As people say, this site isn’t explicitly about gaming, it’s about otaku, the Japanese term used to refer to people with ‘obsessive interests’. Just ignore it and move on with your life

      • Really? Someone should have told that to the person who wrote the “About” page for Kotaku:

        At Kotaku Australia, we’re carefully trying to build a reputation for creating the strongest, most engaging content surrounding games and gaming culture.

        • “Why is it called Kotaku?

          Because Matt didn’t get his way. Otaku is a Japanese word meaning unhealthily obsessed. In Japan, otaku are further sub-classed into being creepy crazy for either video games, anime, manga, or idol singers. In the U.S. it’s been mostly associated with fans of anime and manga. We are told that using “ko-” at the beginning of the word instead of “o-” adds an additional connotation of small, but Matt is 5″10″, which in Japan is lavishly vertical. So you see, it all makes sense.”

        • It’s strange, I’ve seen this very argument play out this exact same way, so I’ll play the obligitory next part.

          The part you quoted is from the Australian site, which if you notice does release articles based around gaming and gaming culture.

          This article however did not come from the Australian site, it came from the US site which does not state. That its articles are primarily focus on gaming news but all facets of culture. Including this due to the composers links to gaming.

          • So the US version is actually dedicated to Otaku, but the one here in Aus is only gaming? Why? Why repost non-gaming articles on the Aus site if the Aus site is focused on, and I quote:

            build a reputation for creating the strongest, most engaging content surrounding games and gaming culture.

            A composer who composed for a game, has something happen to him in his life completely unrelated to games and that tenuous link is good enough to post on a site which describes itself essentially as gaming only?

            I don’t care too much, but the types of articles that get posted and the relation they have to gaming seems ot be getting weaker and weaker. Throw in P. Hernandez’s weird articles and I don’t know wtf is going on half the time.

          • “Throw in P. Hernandez’s weird articles and I don’t know wtf is going on half the time”
            I know what you are saying, articles on furries….

          • (This is supposed to be a reply for jellyarrow)

            While I can’t comment too much on the dubious quality of articles by P. Hernandez, the reason they are posted here is because what i assume is a mutual agreement with Gawker Media (owners of Kotaku US as well as Gizmodo, Lifehacker, etc) that in return for Allure Media (owner of the Australian versions of aforementioned sites) utilising the Kotaku branding, they are required to post an obligitory number of US articles, I don’t know if it’s per day, per week or whatever, the fact remains that the US staff are given the option to post articles from the main site onto here, even if they don’t exactly abide by the rules the Australian site lays out for their own articles.

            I’m not saying this set up is perfect, and the US staff are known for routinely stuffing things up, like the recent Conan O’Brien article they posted where the video wouldn’t work outside the US, I know this is at least the second time they have done that. But I guess its the price the site has to pay for brand recognition.

        • Coulton is best known for writing music for a popular game, portal, and also does other gaming and pop culture related songs. This story fit here. If it doesn’t interest you, maybe you shouldn’t have clicked on it?

          • Correct. Coulton is a significant figure in gaming culture. His fame is entirely geek/gamer-centric, Ergo relevance. No need to explore any deeper.

            Anyone else getting sick of people complaining about the relevance of these articles? If they didn’t get the clicks and comments they wouldn’t keep posting damn things.

            For the record, I’m a Gamer and a Geek and I’m interested in this particular bit of trashy news. If you’re worried about strict editorial control why the hell are you reading anything gawker? Idiots.

        • gaming culture

          There’s the issue isn’t it. What constitutes culture? Is it just purely about the one thing? Or is a multitude of things which all combine to make gaming culture. A persons life generally isn’t 100% pure games so why not take in other considerations no matter how tangentially related?

          • You’re diluting the word culture so much as to turn it into a completely meaningless term. How does FOX screwing an artist have anything to go with gaming culture? It doesn’t.

            Let’s not pretend this is Kotaku’s first irrelevant article.

    • Does it even matter?
      A lot of people on here find this an interesting story and one I, personally, wouldn’t have known about if it were elsewhere.
      Coulton on is MASSIVE pop-culture-folk-music icon and an incredibly talented individual, so even though you may find the links tenuous at best, I think this is perfectly fine here.
      Complain when they start writing articles on Aerosmith’s latest botox botch.

    • Because the guy also wrote a song in a game once or twice and is very popular among gaming circles as a result.

  • Ergh, don’t like it, don’t read it, it’s as simple as that.
    I, however, listened to both songs at the same time. It’s his song through and through. I hope he has a leg to stand on and get some recognition.

  • Couldnt care if wasn’t game related, i was interested by it so i read it. Cant believe how big of issue it is.

  • I like this article, I like any article that makes the fat cats think about losing weight. So I’ll go on youtube now and like this JC work and dislike the Glee one.

    I feel like I have impacted society now.

    My charity work is done for the year.

  • Since I have no clue who this dude is, I read the article… waiting for the games reference.
    Thank you, fellow commenters, for defining the link.
    As for the “if you dont like it don’t read it” bull – what I didn’t like was the tenuous games connection. Which I only discovered by- reading.
    I’d like to un-read it, but I can’t. Just as I can’t un-watch that 2 chicks 1 cup video [uurrggh].

  • What sucks is they can just get away with this. The show is supposed to celebrate music and the appeal is about the rearranging of popular songs and there residual appreciation of musical culture. Second to that is the themes of bullying and acceptance and being the underdog.

    How ironic that in producing the show they manage to suppress and bully the underdog while showing blatant disregard for a person’s musical expression and utter contempt for the creative process.

    I’ve ever personally liked the show but I still afforded it merit based on it’s reference for musical culture, but now I can’t help but see it as despicable.

  • *sigh* my other fave site Topless Robot has such comments as this here one. Lotta geeks like Glee. Inherently geeky properties attract geeks and you would think geeky stuff would be a natural fit for a geeky site. i don’t like glee but the bullshittery that was pulled on this move by FOX….
    Dunno cheers Kotaku. informed me, knew what i was getting into when i clicked the link. Haters gonna hate

  • Maybe its just me, but I consider JC part of gaming culture. He’s a gamer, huge geek, and has had many nerdtastic songs, some of which were even available on Rock Band. He may not be Shigeru Miyamoto, but I am glad that Kotaku brought this news to me, instead of another site.
    Anyone whinging about this article needs to get their head out of their arse, its certainly more interesting than an article like “How to survive a Dog Attack in COD”

  • Is quoting a large section of the blog post complaining about being ripped off without attribution but not actually linking to the blog in question some sort of bid for a new level of metairony, or just sleazily negligent?

  • I think the article implies, that a corporation such as Fox, has no respect for the game industry and can get away with plagiarism. Just because it’s the game industry, and because Fox thinks it’s above copyright law. Even though Fox publicly defends and prompts the ‘piracy-is-immoral’ stance.

  • Gaming culture knows about Glee (usually to bash it).
    This article relates to Glee.
    Hence, this article relates, tangentially, to gaming culture.

    Validation: I’m a gamer. I like kotaku. I was linked to this article from elsewhere. I found this article interesting. I am pleased it is on kotaku. I am reminded that I haven’t browsed kotaku in several weeks. Bye bye.

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