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Plugged In

Video game songwriter fights back against ‘Glee’

Plugged In

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Jonathan Coulton

Last week, songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who most gamers know through his legendary work on Valve's Portal series, accused the FOX show 'Glee' of ripping off his cover of Sir Mix-a-lot's "Baby Got Back." Coulton's version, released in 2006, transformed the hip-hop anthem into a laid back folksy jam, which apparently was so catchy that it caught the ear of the arrangers at 'Glee', who pretty much ripped it off.

Producers for the show haven't made any public statements, though Coulton says on his blog that they acknowledged his complaints privately.

"They also got in touch with my peeps to basically say that they're within their legal rights to do this, and that I should be happy for the exposure (even though they do not credit me, and have not even publicly acknowledged that it's my version -- so you know, it's kind of SECRET exposure)," he wrote. "While they appear not to be legally obligated to do any of these things, 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."

The show also put its version of the song up on iTunes. So Coulton decided to do the same by releasing a cover of the 'Glee' cover of his, er, original cover. How's that for a legal rabbit hole?

Coulton dubbed the new song "Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)," with the caveat that all monies collected from the sale through the end of February would go to two charities: The VH1 Save the Music Foundation and The It Gets Better Project.

It seems like another play from Coulton's often sarcastic book, but the artist acknowledges that the issue has taken its toll on him.

"Honestly, this has been a very stressful time, and it means so much to see how many of you are behind me," he said. "I’ve been trying to figure out a positive way to channel all this energy. I haven’t asked you guys to take any specific action throughout this thing, but now I am asking: buy the track, give it some stars, leave a comment (please be civil), and tell everyone you can."

The pleas seem to be working. Geeks are overpowering Gleeks on iTunes.

As of this writing, the show's version of the song has earned just 1.5 stars and 1,858 comments. Coulton's reissue has a five-star rating and 2,337 comments. And Coulton reported via Twitter on Sunday that his version had surpassed the sales of every song from the 'Glee' episode featuring the cover.

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