Has Glee broken the law on copyright?

So, it seems that the acclaimed television program Glee may have taken a step too far with one of it’s covers this time, completely ripping someone off. Or have they?

So the story so far is that a couple of weeks ago Glee released their cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”. This was normal procedure as they usually release their  songs two weeks in advance of the episode airing. Here is the song:

The song sounds very similar, in fact almost identical to Jonathan Coulton’s cover of Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot. Jonathan’s song goes like this:

The songs are practically identical. Obviously Jonathan gets upset and decides to look at taking legal action. Eventually FOX (the creators of Glee) respond by saying that “they’re within their legal right to do this”, which is completely true. The company stated that Jonathan should be happy with the exposure that he’s getting and basically suck it up. However Jon isn’t credited in the episode once, nor has he received any royalties for the iTunes release or the actual episode. FOX have essentially admitted that they’ve ripped-off Coulton.

The only case Coulton even has is if Glee directly used his audio track to create their own as that would be a textbook copyright lawsuit. Although Jonathan doesn’t really have a case anyway (FOX is too big a company to be sued), it is quite interesting to look at the case. Coulton’s licence used to create the cover states that his cover cannot differ too much from the original and that new work by Jonathan isn’t covered by copyright. Jonathan added a melody, changed the arrangement and changed the message of Baby Got Back, which some would argue is enough for Jonathan to call the song his own.

To get his own back Coulton has re-released his cover, calling it a cover of the Glee cover and is donating all the money to Glee-backed charities. Technically speaking because he did not acquire a licence to do this cover of the Glee song, he is liable for a copyright charge for covering what is his own song. If FOX were to take him to court it would make for a very interesting court case. No comment yet from Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Copyright laws and intellectual property is generally very hard to wrap your head around. Many of the facts that are being thrown around about this case are untrue, so some of this blog may be inaccurate, however my understanding is that Jonathan has no legal rights to anything that FOX has made, whether it was stolen from him or not. Ethically, what FOX did was wrong, but there is no space for ethics in business.

Harry Fox Licence

Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad had a large amount of promise before it’s release but due to it being pushed back and having many scenes re-shot in the wake of the Aurora tragedy, by the time it was released the excitement was gone and we are left with a sub-par film.

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So in my opinion Gangster Squad was a poor film. There’s no getting around that. I feel like the director knew that too and so tried to cover it up with the excessive amount of blood and brutality within the film. It just went over the top, it became too realistic. I’m sure gangsters did do that, I’m sure they went round bashing people in the eyeball with screwdrivers, but I don’t really want to see that in all it’s glory. The problem was that the brutality wasn’t really advertised, so it was a shock to see it, I feel like the whole cinema recoiled slightly the first time someone got beaten up.

Now, I love Ryan Gosling as much as the next guy, but there was a problem with him in this film. I’m not sure whether it’s just me that had this issue but there was something wrong with his voice. Gosling’s character has a voice like an angel, which would be fine if he wasn’t playing an undercover cop battling against organised crime. Over the course of the film it lowers, but at the start I found it very difficult to understand what he was saying.

On the upside, Sean Penn’s acting was amazing. His character should have been given way more monologues, or even should have been the anti-hero in this film as Josh Brolin’s character just isn’t relatable. Josh’s character makes some bad decisions in terms of his family and came off as quite a cold character. I think here lies the main reason as to why I didn’t enjoy Gangster Squad: Brolin’s character was so unrelatable to me, that I couldn’t feel too sad when things went bad for him (when his friend dies), likewise I couldn’t feel too happy when things when well for him (when the mob boss is caught).
I suppose everyone else’s acting was okay, good enough so that it wasn’t bad. Visually the film was on point, I didn’t spot anything that looked too off, it was very well polished. The car chase scene in particular was noticeably good, probably one of the better scenes in this film.

The film’s conclusion also bothers me greatly. Gosling’s character keeps mentioning that having a strategy is important. It is shown that when they don’t have a strategy, things go wrong. So why is everything resolved by the squad going in and just shooting at everyone and everything until the mob boss dies? It actually makes me angry that that was the ending. It was done just to have a massive shoot-out which, although looked cool, was completely unnecessary. I would have been much happier with a very strategic plan, well executed plan, not this royal rumble that we’re presented with.

I give this film a 5 out of 10 for it’s good car chase scene, Sean Penn’s acting and disappointing ending.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained was definitely the best film I’ve seen this year. Whilst that isn’t much of an achievement right now, I reckon I’ll be saying that in at least six months time.

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The performances in Django Unchained is just one of the many reason that I enjoyed this film. The performances from Christopher Waltz, Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio were just incredible. A notable performance also came from Kerry Washington. I’m not sure if it was because her character had such emotional scenes, but her performance was easily my favourite. I was captivated constantly during almost all of her screen time.

The way Django was structured was very noticeable to me and played a major role in my enjoyment of this movie. Tarantino split Django into thirds. The first third was humorous, in particular the Klu Klux Klan scene was brilliant; the second third was serious and the tension rose, this takes place in the presence of DiCaprio and culminates in the death of DiCaprio’s character, and the final third was all about retribution, focusing mainly on Django and wrapping up loose ends.

There has been some criticism on how slavery is represented in Django. Obviously a film about slavery is going to attract a large amount of discussion and some people will automatically dislike it, for whatever reason. Film director Spike Lee also had some controversial comments to make about Django film. Directed at Tarantino, Lee is quoted at saying “What does he want to be made, an honorary black man?”. This is in relation to Quentin’s over-use of the word nigger (apparently used over 100 times during the film). Now, although I agree that it was over-used I also believe it was completely contextual. That is how people spoke back then and generally how black people were referenced.

There were very few criticisms I had of Django. At one stage the film slowed down too much for it to be enjoyable and it almost broke the tension completely. We also didn’t get much backstory from the German doctor, why or how he became a bounty hunter, I felt as though the film kind of skirmishes around the Doctor’s past and motives. The luck and skill of Django towards the end is also doubtable, although I’m willing to let it slide as it was fun to watch.

In conclusion, Django is a must-watch film for any Tarantino fans and fans of good cinema in general. I give this film a 9 out of 10  for it’s superb plot, performances and lack of depth in certain areas.