Pissed-Off Jonathan Coulton Fans Review-Bomb Glee’s ‘Baby Got Back’

Pissed-Off Jonathan Coulton Fans Review-Bomb Glee’s ‘Baby Got Back’

If you head on over to iTunes and check out Glee’s version of “Baby Got Back”, you’ll find a swarm of unhappy reviews from Jonathan Coulton fans. That’s what happens when you rip a song off, I guess.

To quickly recap, for those of you not in the loop: earlier this month we reported how Glee copied Jonathan Coulton’s arrangement on a song called Baby Got Back. Despite making his issues public, Coulton has not received an apology from Fox. He retaliated by releasing a “cover” of Glee’s version of the song, with proceeds going to charity.

Here is Coulton’s “cover” on iTunes. It costs $0.99 and has nearly 100 pages of five-star reviews, many with encouraging words. And many naturally reference the current fiasco with Fox. Check it out (click to see at full size/to view all the reviews):


Snarky stuff in there.

Glee’s version of Baby Got Back, meanwhile? Things are ugly on that iTunes page. Thousands of awful reviews mean that it’s currently sitting on one and a half stars. These unfavorable reviews are from Jonathan Coulton fans.


Does one and a half stars sound too charitable for a bevy of one-star reviews? Well, there are some Glee fans defending the song, even though they seem aware of the Jonathan Coulton situation. See, for instance:


“I am so glad that Glee decided to use Jonathan Coulton’s version of the song instead of the original. It’s such a unique version of the song,” says one reviewer who seems to have missed that the two songs are nearly identical.

Unsurprisingly, many of these Glee fan reviews are being voted as ‘unhelpful.’

Back over to Jonathan Coulton’s page, we don’t see any Glee fans fighting fire with fire. But you do see them there. Many Gleeks are rating Coulton’s version of the song highly….but are defending Fox at the same time. Apparently Glee fans think JCo should be grateful for the ‘exposure’ even though Fox isn’t crediting him at all.


Fans, huh?


  • I know Kotaku Australia imports stories from America, but can’t there be a BIT of fact-checking first? I nearly squeed when I thought Apple finally decided to sell songs here for 99c. Nope, it’s still $1.69. Also, the Glee version isn’t available in iTunes (or at least the Australian one).

    • Probably because it would open a whole can of worms. I don’t know if doing a cover is under the US fair use policy, but he could only sue with regards to the music (not the lyrics) and then he could probably be sued by whoever owns the copyright in the original song.

      Plus it would be at least 12 months of legal proceedings combined with tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees.

        • One can, one can even be in the right and win initially… but Fox will then appeal and tie it up in court for so long it’s just not worth it in the long run…

      • Sadly, U.S. Code 17 Section 125, on derivative copyrighted works, awards the copyright for nearly all works based on a work under existing copyright back to the original copyright holder, in this case Sir Mix-a-Lot. Now, there is some (very little) contention that the combination of Coulton’s purchase of a compulsory mechanical license to cover the original and Coulton’s composition of a completely new piece of music that just happened to back Mix-a-Lot’s lyrics could be a necessary wedge that would allow Coulton to claim copyright on the version that Fox used without credit. Unfortunately, it is unsupported by case law anywhere on the planet, and as has been brought up, FOX has deep, deep pockets to hire lots and lots of lawyers. (Disclosure: I am not a lawyer, though I am an American, and a Jonathan Coulton fan.)

        And it’s not like Disney sued FOX for ripping off “High School Musical” in the first place.

    • You can’t copyright an arrangement in the US. You can copyright an original song, which is why JCo would have paid Sir Mixalot songwriting royalties, as he should, but the arrangement that JC did can’t be protected, which is what Glee took advantage of. He’s just pissed because he turned one song into something pretty different and unique and they just ripped it off (even including the line where he namechecks himself) without any sort of credit.

  • This is why I can’t stand Glee, they only thing that makes them stand out are their cover songs and on so many occasions they completly miss the point of the original, Gotye’s “Somebody that I use to know is a prime example”

  • I thought they ONLY did covers with their own cheesy “broadway musical” interpretation smothered over the top?

  • Wait, how can you “steal” a cover?
    hasn’t it already been stolen?
    enemyofaverage seems to be the only one who noticed

    • I can’t figure out how to edit!
      I’d be interested to know if John C asked for permission from sir mix-a-lot, during his “thing a week”

      • JC did, in fact, follow all established procedures and pay the appropriate fees to use the song. He followed law and basic decency. Fox failed on one if not both of those points. In the end, all they really had to do was apologise and credit him, really, but they got super snotty about it back at him so it keeps escalating.

    • One particular point is that in JC’s version, he changed “Sir Mix-a-lot’s in trouble” to “Johnny C’s in trouble”, which Glee copied word for word. So it’s not even just about doing it in the style Coulton did it, but they make reference to Johhny C, who I’m pretty damm sure is not a Glee character.

      Ok, neither is Sir Mix-a-lot if they had covered the original, but still.

      • I would love to see them both guest star on a Very Special Episode, where one of the teachers, (guest staring the Musical Supervisor for the show, whose name DID inexplicably get into the credits of “Glee’s” “cover”) is caught plagiarising.

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