The Glee version of "Baby Got Back" apparently used Jonathan Coulton's arrangement without his knowledge or permission.
Glee, the fairly popular Fox TV show featuring the misfit members of a high school glee club (and more recently, their college counterparts), is known for its song covers. Aside from that one silly time when New Directions decided to perform original songs (don't ask me how I know that), the show's cast integrates everything from modern pop hits to classic rock into its storylines, with each original episode featuring a few more new Glee-specific covers.
Being on a major television network, one would assume that the writers, producers, and legal team behind Glee go through the trouble of acquiring proper permission from singers and songwriters before recording new versions of those songs. Apparently, however, that's not always the case.
Earlier today, singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton discovered that Glee's version of "Baby Got Back" didn't sound very much like Sir Mix-a-Lot's original; in fact, it sounds suspiciously like his version of the song. At the very least, it's pretty clearly the exact same arrangement. It might be even more devious than that:
According to the unofficial Glee Wiki, "Baby Got Back" will appear on the eleventh episode of the current season of Glee, and hasn't appeared on any of the soundtrack albums yet.
It's worth noting that the Twitter account linked to the GleeSeason4Songs Youtube account isn't associated with Glee or Fox in any official capacity.
According to the poster, the song was obtained from the GleekOutBR Tumblr, which in turn links to a Brazilian fan site that also lists "Baby Got Back" as appearing in the eleventh episode of season four. That site links back to the Youtube video that started this kerfuffle to begin with.
Perhaps more damning is the fact that the Swedish iTunes store lists "Baby Got Back (Glee Cast Version)" as a single, though it's not yet available on the U.S. store.
What's unclear in all of this is whether Fox did something illegal, or just very uncool, by taking Coulton's arrangement of Sir Mix-a-Lot's song without his permission. A lawyer we spoke to wasn't sure about the legalities, but with angry fans currently tweeting @GLEEonFOX en masse, the network may be forced to respond.
As of this writing, there's been no word from the Glee team on Twitter or elsewhere, but we'll let you know if that changes. The episode in question is scheduled to air on January 24.
Source: Jonathan Coulton