Covering Up the Cover


Jonathan Coulton had a song (well, his unique cover of a song) stolen by Glee. I won’t get into details because I’m not a serious Coulton fan and I certainly don’t watch Glee, so I’m far from an authority on it. Read a bit more information on that here.

This sparked things with friends of Coulton, his fellow artists, on the assumption that somebody else’s ideas are for the taking. I’ve written about this before. I’ve also written, as recently as this past Sunday about the strong belief that ideas are for the sharing. Notice the difference – or don’t, if you want to get into a fight-on-the-internet and accuse me of being a hypocrite. I wouldn’t mind getting the attention.

Tweeting about this as other people were. This sparked a conversation with my friend Wil Alambre:

@khrismonegenege: Maaaan, independent subculture does something great and mega-conglomorate mainstream culture says “HEY! We should be making the money here!”

@wilalambre: @khrismonegenege I think this is filed under the “Do as we say, not as we do” heading of their standard operating procedures documentation.

@khrismonegenege: @wilalambre The difference between “pirates” and “privateers” is that one is driven by profit alone, the other by ideology and principle.

Glee put the song on iTunes as a lead-in to an upcoming episode. They then pulled the song off of iTunes because of backlash, because people noticed, and because the people who did notice are the kinds to stick up for their friends. This subculture values and respects creativity and creative people; FOX and Glee value viewership and consumers. (Notice I didn’t repeat “and respects” in there.)

Glee covered a cover – of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic that will stand the test of time and become a defining cultural artifact of the 20th century – that credits the original but not the cover they covered. Jonathan Coulton never took anything away from Sir Mix-A-Lot; he just added more to it. Glee takes that away from Coulton. Such is a symptom of the style of idea transfusion being from manufacturer to consumer, rather than from artist to audience, or artist to community, or artist to artist, or human being to human being. Creative works should not be merely for our entertainment; they should be for our appreciation, for our engagement, and for our connectedness.

So do the world a favour and credit creators. I can’t write about this enough.


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