An Open Letter To Glee’s Executives

Dear Sirs,

              I am a long time fan of Glee. I have watched Glee since its inception. I have bought Glee on Blu-Ray. Glee is probably my television show. The episode aired on January 24th 2013 entitled Sadie Hawkins will be the last episode of Glee I will watch.

     I am a lawyer, recently qualified, and understand the laws of intellectual property. I understand the limitations of musicians intellectual property rights. With this in mind, the moral consequences of stealing someone’s idea goes beyond legal ramifications. The television show Glee explicitly espouses the ideals of a society that accepts and prizes individuality and creativity in the arts. The facts that I uncovered after watching this episode of Glee have shown me that the show merely pays lip-service to these ideals, with no real belief in them.

     It was drawn to my attention that the arrangement of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back performed in the aforementioned episode was, in fact, written and previously performed by Jonathan Coulton. I know little of Mr. Coulton’s music, having only heard one or two of his songs from his back catalogue. Following a brief internet search I uncovered evidence that shocked and disappointed. Mr. Coulton’s 2005 release sounds, to the untrained ear, completely identical to the performance in the aforementioned episode. During the credit roll of the episode “musical score composition and production” is credited to James S. Levine, PJ Bloom is credited as “music supervisor”, David Klotz is credited as “music editor” and Blaine Cline is credited as “music production supervisor”. There was absolutely no mention of, or thank-you to, Mr. Coulton who obviously, at the very least, inspired the rendition of Baby Got Back.

     After viewing this episode, I visited Mr. Coulton’s website, to see if he had any comments. It appears that either someone from the production company, or their legal department has been in touch with Mr. Coulton. He summarizes their position as :

“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.” jonathancoulton.com

     If Mr. Coulton is accurate in his description, I hate to think that every unique cover which has been undertaken by the cast of Glee over the past three (3) and a half seasons has been arranged and performed by an unknown musician, and that that unknown musician has received absolutely no acknowledgement.

     I do not pretend to understand the inner workings of the music industry. However, I do suppose that it is an extremely elite and notoriously difficult industry to be successful in. With this in mind, I have watched the characters (namely Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, etc.) attempt to succeed in the musical theatre and popular music industry. The writers of Glee attempt to create a world where talent is recognized, appreciated and rewarded. Unfortunately, it seems that these ideals are not only not upheld, but actively undermined by the executive branch of the show.

     I am aware of the fact that one person taking a moral stance will not make a difference to Glee’s bottom line. But it has to start somewhere.

Yours Faithfully,

Miss M. Racine, BA, LLB.

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26 comments

  1. Glee might not have been my thing but I respected the message they seemed to be trying to get across. As usual, it turns out it was all hypocrisy. I certainly won’t be supporting them, either.

  2. If that is Glee’s policy on covers, then why did they credit “Valerie” to Amy Winehouse, when it was written by The Zutons and only covered a year later by Amy Winehouse? Some consistency would be nice — You either give credit to the writer, or you give credit to the version you are using. The credits on Valerie have annoyed me ever since Glee released it. The Zutons’ version is much better!

  3. Miss Racine,
    I agree with you completely. While not a fan of Glee’s, I am a fan of Coulton’s and was outraged by their blatant pilferage of his work. Glee espouses a love for the underdog, and yet uses its considerable clout to stomp all over an indie artist. It does have to start somewhere and it’s honorable of you to take a stand.

  4. I have seen a lot of Internet rage post in the past couple weeks and I wanted to say thank you for articulating so well the thoughts I have had. I too have been a huge fan of Glee and finding out about this incident seems to go against everything the show is trying to promote.

  5. Glee ‘jumped the shark’ this series : this was the final act of a desperate production team proving they are without ideas (as well as credibility or morals). Sad it had to die this way, but at least we had two good years …

  6. they are not obligated to give credit if the song is a) a parody or b) built from the ground up as a cover (the artist completely re-writes it, arranges it, etc). In Glee’s case they neither did it as parody of Coulton, nor did they write it from the ground up (it even includes Johnny C instead of Mix-a-Lot where Coulton changed the lyrics).
    Well put letter, won’t make a difference. Glee was never about ‘getting out a message’ it was about making money. Like all other television shows.

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  9. Preach it girl!!!
    I was a huge “Gleek” for the first season. I stopped watching mid-way through season 2 because I started to really dislike the sociopath-like desperation in the Rachel character, while I really enjoyed the other characters. I didn’t like seeing the kind of obsessive behavior- with little regard to how her actions affected others- rewarded. The message I received was “if you’re pretty or talented enough, you’ll succeed even if you’re nasty to other people.” All this said, it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the music of the show and buying it off of iTunes.
    As an avid JoCo fan, I am disgusted by the executives at Glee/Fox for this shady and questionably legal deal. They will get no more of my money. I appreciate your passion for justice. Congrats on going viral!

  10. Great post!
    I don’t think much will change as, if JC makes a case (which he appears to have, as it sounds very much like they also used the music off the recording), they will write him a cheque and move on.
    The problem is that it’s more about the principle than the money and Glee (or future, similar, TV shows) have enough money to bypass any prickly ‘moral’ issues such as this.

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  12. Check out Petra Haden’s version of Don’t Stop Believing. If you’d heard it earlier then, like me, you’d have only sat through one episode of Glee. This kind of thing is just one of the reasons I loathe Glee. The others being an able-bodied actor in a role that could have gone to a disabled actor, autotune, and the fact that I’m a 43 year old heterosexual male and so not really the target audience.

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