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(Tech Dirt)   Wanna know how farked up US Copyright law is? With regard to "Baby Got Back", one could make a passable case that Jonathan Coulton is more likely guilty of copyright infringement than Fox and Glee are   (techdirt.com) divider line 51
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4025 clicks; posted to Entertainment » on 30 Jan 2013 at 7:26 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-01-30 06:29:36 PM  
Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.
 
2013-01-30 06:51:56 PM  

fusillade762: Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.


Had his audience not been Web savvy you probably still wouldn't have, since Fox refused to credit Coulton. Also, you can download a lot of his catalog for free, even use for free in your own works (non-commercially and properly attributed), because of the Creative Commons license he uses to release songs.
 
2013-01-30 06:58:39 PM  
Wow, it's like Copyright law isn't written to protect the creatives but the corporations that license the work!  How crazy is that?
 
2013-01-30 07:08:26 PM  
Fact:

The best cover of "Baby Got Back" was done by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine.
 
jvl
2013-01-30 07:31:13 PM  
Duh.  Coulton didn't write the song.  It's is not, and never did, belong to him.

"I rewrote 'The Deadly Hallows' into American English so it's mine now, right?".
 
2013-01-30 07:36:43 PM  
He paid the compulsory license to do a cover and now whenever his version sells or gets played, the copyright owners get a royalty. A royalty they wouldn't have gotten but for the fact that this cover version exists. I doubt they will go after him.
 
2013-01-30 07:36:58 PM  
But he got permission first.
 
2013-01-30 07:43:32 PM  
As he's noted repeatedly, he paid the compulsory license to cover the song via the Harry Fox Agency. Doing so means that he agreed (pdf) to abide by Section 115 of the Copyright Act.

the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.

Previously, we and many others had suggested that the changes that what Coulton had made could possibly be protected as unique creative works. However, he more or less gave up that claim when he used the statutory license, rather than doing a direct deal with Sir Mix A Lot, or whoever else holds the rights on the song. That also means, however, that Coulton did not live up to Section 115 and his cover, in all likelihood, violates the original copyrights, because the license he got does not cover the very different arrangement and melody he created.


Ok, let's accept that as true. But let's also accept that Glee also bought a compulsory license from Harry Fox and is also subject to Section 115 and its prohibition against chainging the character of the work.(*) As a result, both Glee and Coulton would be in identical violation of Section 115, meaning that the premise of the article ("Coulton is more guilty than Glee") incorrect.
(* They probably paid much more than Coulton, because they had to purchase synchronization rights to accompany the song with a moving image. And once the lawyers got involved in negotiating synch rights -- which are not automatic, unlike a mechanical royalty like Coulton got -- odds are pretty good they bought a whole bundle of rights from Mixx-a-Lot, including the right to make a new arrangement. But this too torpedoes the premise of the article, since Glee probably paid Mixx-a-Lot much more for their bunde of rights -- reproduction, synch, arrangement -- than Coulton did in paying for the relatively cheap mechanical reproduction license, making their situations dissimilar and the article's comparison between them facile.)
 
2013-01-30 07:44:18 PM  

fusillade762: I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.


Never heard of Portal?
 
2013-01-30 07:51:50 PM  
Neither has infringed and the article shows an utter ignorance of what the law means.  The law does allow for different arrangement (think of Jose Feliciano and "Light My Fire") and it's no infringement since Coulton paid for a license.  Glee also legally paid for the rights to the song, and it's up to ASCAP to pay whoever is entitled to it.  You can record any song you like in any arrangement if you pay the licensing fees.
 
2013-01-30 07:53:04 PM  
Still, the producers of Glee are dicks for not acknowledging Coulton's work.
 
2013-01-30 07:53:46 PM  
He should have called it a parody, then he would't need any permission and could do whatever he wants, AND he would have more rights to the parody version than he does to his version now (which is basically zero).
 
2013-01-30 08:06:22 PM  
So wait, did Fox do a direct deal with Sir Mix A Lot, or are they as guilty as Coulton?

I'd also say an argument could be made that Coulton did a parody since the entire tone of the song has changed due to how it was arranged and paying Harry Fox was a courtesy.  I know Weird Al gets permission from artists before parodying their songs (including the ones he re-arranges by turning them into polkas) but I'm not sure if money changes hands.  I'd guess so since there's songwriters and composers that want to get paid too.
 
2013-01-30 08:06:37 PM  

jvl: Duh.  Coulton didn't write the song.  It's is not, and never did, belong to him.

"I rewrote 'The Deadly Hallows' into American English so it's mine now, right?".


Actually, in this case he did write the song, just not the lyrics (except for a few lines he changed). The music itself was entirely his original creation. And Fox didn't just play their own performance of the new melody Jonathan wrote, they actually used Jonathan's own recorded performance of the song, with one of their own singers singing over top of it (and without even changing his modified version of the lyrics, which included his own name). Do that and not mention his name in credit, yeah, that's a problem.
 
2013-01-30 08:09:09 PM  

TalenLee: fusillade762: I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.

Never heard of Portal?


I'm making a note here...
 
2013-01-30 08:12:48 PM  
This reminded me of the very awesome Aztec Camera version of Jump.  Cover or parody?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bzKzbucdnE
 
2013-01-30 08:15:52 PM  

fusillade762: Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.


This was a triumph.
 
2013-01-30 08:19:05 PM  

The_Sponge: Fact:

The best cover of "Baby Got Back" was done by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine.


That.

Nuclear Monk: Still, the producers of Glee are dicks for not acknowledging Coulton's work.


That too.

enry: I'd also say an argument could be made that Coulton did a parody since the entire tone of the song has changed due to how it was arranged and paying Harry Fox was a courtesy


Without getting into the nitty gritty of this, you would be entirely incorrect. What Coulton DOES have the rights to is his recording, if any of it was used without his permission, but neither the musical setup of the cover he did nor his minor changes to the lyrics are something he has copyright to.
 
2013-01-30 08:26:34 PM  

TalenLee: fusillade762: I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.

Never heard of Portal?


I've heard of Portal.  Played it a many times as well.  As a normal person representing 99% of every human in the entire universe, I have to admit that I never gave even the slightest bit of farks about the music or who played it, though.
 
2013-01-30 08:44:46 PM  
I think the bottom line is Fox should just not be dicks and credit both the person that did the rearrangement and the original author.  What is stupid is that this is even a story that there are lawyers involved at all when all Fox needed to do was write a farking line in the credits and this would still be a non-issue.


I am on Coulton's side on this, mostly because Fox's argument that "well they get exposure" is BS and I don't blame Coulton for being upset, because a few years from now more people would probably, "Hey this dude is playing Glee's version of Baby Got Back."  Why?  Because Fox did not give any credit.  The dude is asking for "'Baby Got Back' arrangement by Jonathan Coulton." In the end credits.  Woe be Fox for having to pay someone minimum wage to type 6 words into the credits.


Ignoring legal reasons simple courtesy goes a long way and keeps all parties from looking like idiots.
 
2013-01-30 08:52:09 PM  
I really didn't care about this until I saw this whole copyright thing. My band is soon releasing an album with a cover song that I have express permission to cover (from the person who wrote the song, Max Bemis of Say Anything.) We took an acoustic song and turned it into a full five-piece band song with a totally different arrangement and female vocals.  I'd honestly have someone's head if they took what we did to the song - and it took us a long time to make this work the way it does - (a lot of people don't even realize is a cover).  There should be some protections for the guy, I'd think. I hate to think we'd have no protection for a song we really completely changed and I did discuss with the person who wrote it who not only said I could do it but asked me happily to send him a copy when we were done recording it. (Crap do I wish I had that in writing.)

I've never seen "Glee". I have no desire to. I hopefully will never be forcefully exposed to it.

Doubly so after this.
 
2013-01-30 09:25:07 PM  

The_Sponge: Fact:

The best cover of "Baby Got Back" was done by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine.


Truth.
 
2013-01-30 09:26:56 PM  

Leishu: What Coulton DOES have the rights to is his recording, if any of it was used without his permission, but neither the musical setup of the cover he did nor his minor changes to the lyrics are something he has copyright to.


The music (melody+chords) is his own original composition. How does he not hold copyright on that?
 
2013-01-30 10:23:36 PM  

RealityChuck: Neither has infringed and the article shows an utter ignorance of what the law means.  The law does allow for different arrangement (think of Jose Feliciano and "Light My Fire") and it's no infringement since Coulton paid for a license.


The article is wrong about most things, but they're right there - the compulsory license Coulton paid for doesn't cover different arrangements. So, yes, he may well have created an unlicensed derivative work.

That said, he holds copyright in the new melody and arrangement (plus the recording). That he may owe Mix-a-Lot some royalties doesn't mean that Glee gets off scot free and Sarah Palin is president.

Glee also legally paid for the rights to the song, and it's up to ASCAP to pay whoever is entitled to it.  You can record any song you like in any arrangement if you pay the licensing fees.

That's simply not true, plus it doesn't appear that Coulton is an ASCAP member. He doesn't show up in their repertory index, which means that Glee could pay ASCAP all the money they want and it doesn't get them a license to Coulton's work.
 
2013-01-30 10:27:20 PM  

fusillade762: Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.


Well, now that I know this, I can see how you'd be upset.

rambly-ramblings.2308065.n4.nabble.com
 
2013-01-30 10:29:43 PM  

kukukupo: The_Sponge: Fact:

The best cover of "Baby Got Back" was done by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine.

Truth.


It's a great cover, no doubt, but pales compared to the one done by Windblown+Hämmers.
 
2013-01-30 10:31:37 PM  
It doesn't matter if Coulton got permission to use the *lyrics*, he wrote his own music to the song. If I write an original melody and sing the words from Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" to it, it's still my damn melody.

Fox may have had permission to use the lyrics from MixALot's record company, but the only one to give rights to the melody Coulton wrote is Coulton - and they didn't.

Case Closed.

\seen 'lyrics by' and 'melody by' credits for years on music
\\how is this different?
 
2013-01-30 11:12:03 PM  

The_Sponge: Fact:

The best cover of "Baby Got Back" was done by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine.


Oh come on, you can say that about anything he does.
 
2013-01-30 11:14:44 PM  

fusillade762: Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.


They actually played his version of Still Alive on the rock/metal station here.

/it's way better than the GLADoS version, yes I know he wrote it
 
2013-01-30 11:16:59 PM  
static3.businessinsider.com
 
2013-01-30 11:25:48 PM  
I get the outrage and everything. It's all understandable. I'm just sick of hearing about it. Frak Glee. I've never watched it nor ever care to. I'm all for the heterosexually challenged kids having their champion show, but shut the hell up about it already. It isn't anything to brag about.
 
2013-01-31 12:04:11 AM  
Glee went full Led Zepelin. Never go full Led Zepelin
 
2013-01-31 12:56:29 AM  

serpent_sky: I've never seen "Glee". I have no desire to. I hopefully will never be forcefully exposed to it.


An ex of mine used to have "Glee Parties" at her house for each new episode.  Yes, it was as miserable as it sounds.
 
2013-01-31 01:07:41 AM  

Nuclear Monk: Still, the producers of Glee are dicks for not acknowledging Coulton's work.

Not really. They only borrowed a digital copy. He still had the fully credited original.
 
xcv
2013-01-31 02:53:27 AM  

illusionofjoy: serpent_sky: I've never seen "Glee". I have no desire to. I hopefully will never be forcefully exposed to it.

An ex of mine used to have "Glee Parties" at her house for each new episode.  Yes, it was as miserable as it sounds.


Read that as Glee Panties and thought of the implications.
 
2013-01-31 03:55:29 AM  
The "you'll get exposure" line is used notoriously by companies to manipulate budding artists into giving away their work for free. The fact that they thought Coulton would fall for it is so insulting it borders on funny. Though I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Fox acts comically evil.
 
2013-01-31 06:15:30 AM  
I like Coulton, I even like his cover of this song, and DON'T like Glee.  And yet I absolutely, completely, and utterly, don't give a single goddamn shiat about this story that the internet seems to feel the need to dry-hump on a daily basis.
 
2013-01-31 07:22:17 AM  

LowbrowDeluxe: I like Coulton, I even like his cover of this song, and DON'T like Glee.  And yet I absolutely, completely, and utterly, don't give a single goddamn shiat about this story that the internet seems to feel the need to dry-hump on a daily basis.


Was the headline not enough of a clue that this might not be the thread for you?
 
2013-01-31 07:42:46 AM  

LowbrowDeluxe: I like Coulton, I even like his cover of this song, and DON'T like Glee.  And yet I absolutely, completely, and utterly, don't give a single goddamn shiat about this story that the internet seems to feel the need to dry-hump on a daily basis.


You can't stop caring here, this is outrage thread
 
2013-01-31 08:54:51 AM  

LewDux: LowbrowDeluxe: I like Coulton, I even like his cover of this song, and DON'T like Glee.  And yet I absolutely, completely, and utterly, don't give a single goddamn shiat about this story that the internet seems to feel the need to dry-hump on a daily basis.

You can't stop caring here, this is outrage thread


images.sodahead.com
 
2013-01-31 09:39:47 AM  
Couldn't Coulton make a reasonable claim that his version is a parody, and thus needs no license at all, if it came down to it?
 
2013-01-31 09:58:04 AM  

T.M.S.: Nuclear Monk: Still, the producers of Glee are dicks for not acknowledging Coulton's work.Not really. They only borrowed a digital copy. He still had the fully credited original.


And TMS demonstrates he still doesn't understand that file sharing isn't theft.
 
2013-01-31 01:03:29 PM  

4of11: Couldn't Coulton make a reasonable claim that his version is a parody, and thus needs no license at all, if it came down to it?


Nope. The key case on parody is the suit by Roy Orbison against 2 Live Crew:

Here, the District Court held, and the Court of Appeals assumed, that 2 Live Crew's "Pretty Woman" contains parody, commenting on and criticizing the original work, what-ever it may have to say about society at large. As the District Court remarked, the words of 2 Live Crew's song copy the original's first line, but then "quickly degenerat[e] into a play on words, substituting predictable lyrics with shocking
ones . . . [that] derisively demonstrat[e] how bland and banal the Orbison song seems to them." 754 F. Supp., at 1155 (footnote omitted). Judge Nelson, dissenting below, came to the same conclusion, that the 2 Live Crew song "was clearly intended to ridicule the white-bread original" and "reminds us that sexual congress with nameless streetwalkers is not necessarily the stuff of romance and is not necessarily with-out its consequences. The singers (there are several) have the same thing on their minds as did the lonely man with the nasal voice, but here there is no hint of wine and roses."
972 F. 2d, at 1442.
...
We have less difficulty in finding that critical element in 2 Live Crew's song than the Court of Appeals did, although having found it we will not take the further step of evaluat-ing its quality. The threshold question when fair use is raised in defense of parody is whether a parodic character may reasonably be perceived . . While we might not assign a high rank to the parodic element here, we think it fair to say that 2 Live Crew's song reasonably could be perceived as commenting on the original or criticizing it, to some degree. 2 Live Crew juxtaposes the romantic musings of a man whose fantasy comes true, with degrading taunts, a bawdy demand for sex, and a sigh of relief from paternal responsibility. The later words can be taken as a comment on the naivete´ of the original of an earlier day, as a rejection of its sentiment that ignores the ugliness of street life and the debasement that it signifies. It is this joinder of reference and ridicule that marks off the author's choice of parody from the other types of comment and criticism that traditionally have had a claim to fair use protection as transformative works.


In other words, to be enjoy copyright protection as a parody, it has to be: (i) transformative, in that it may appropriate some of the original's content, but then has to veer off into new territory; and (ii) it has to comment in some way on the work being parodied. Coulton's version meets neither element. As to the lyrics of "Baby Got Back," he doesn't transform them in a material way; he just copies them. Nor does his version have any apparent parodic "comment" on the original, other than perhaps a way of saying "hey, you can do a different musical arrangement with this."

Weird Al's parodies certainly meet the first element, but there is an argument as to whether they are "commenting" on the song being parodied." What comment is "Like a Surgeon" making about "Like a Virgin," other than maybe "those two words rhyme." That's why he's smart to make sure he gets permission to do what he does, as he may not be able to defeat a lawsuit that might materialize.
 
2013-01-31 02:04:39 PM  
Does anybody have a link to the  Windblown+Hämmers version video? It had some seriously NSFW thong action going on. I can't find it right now.
 
2013-01-31 03:54:02 PM  
Fox stealing his cover may not be a crime, but it is criminal. They're being selfish dicks and acting like they're doing him a service. And it's farking Glee, home of unoriginal one-dimensional stereotypes. Meanwhile Coulton just rereleased his cover, with all proceeds going to charity (and Sir Mix-a-lot). I'm on his side 100%.
 
2013-01-31 05:15:37 PM  

Herr Morgenstern: Fox stealing his cover may not be a crime, but it is criminal. They're being selfish dicks and acting like they're doing him a service. And it's farking Glee, home of unoriginal one-dimensional stereotypes. Meanwhile Coulton just rereleased his cover, with all proceeds going to charity (and Sir Mix-a-lot). I'm on his side


Fortunately these decisions are not based on what YOU like and dislike.
 
2013-01-31 05:40:43 PM  
"Do not underestimate at cat like Jonathan, with a million followers. He will wax that ass."
-Sir Mix-A-Lot


46 minutes into this radio program
 
2013-01-31 07:19:03 PM  

fusillade762: Coulton should be happy for the exposure

I've certainly never heard of him until this. Not that I'm going to be buying any of his music.


I'm not a huge fan of his music, but some of the songs are pretty funny, imo.  Try out "Re:Your Brains" or "Skullcrusher Mountain (demo version)".  I have both of those in my playlist.
 
2013-01-31 07:31:07 PM  
The sections of copyright law which differentiate between compulsory licensing of cover versions of a song, and voluntary licensing of recordings of derivative works of a song, are needlessly vague and complicated.

So are most all other sections of copyright law, but particularly those.
 
2013-02-01 02:35:58 PM  

Theaetetus: That said, he holds copyright in the new melody and arrangement (plus the recording). That he may owe Mix-a-Lot some royalties doesn't mean that Glee gets off scot free and Sarah Palin is president.


For him to hold copyright on melody and arrangement it would have to be classified as a derivative work, and would be under an almost completely different set of rules and costs, and that boundary is extremely hard to cross.
 
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