This story amuses me greatly. For those who aren’t aware, Jonathan Coulton is a quite talented and entertaining singer/songwriter whose core audience would probably be best described as “nerds,” (not necessarily in a negative way, it is likely a label that most of them embrace). His songs are generally quirky and intellectual; many reference video games. If you recognize the song “Still Alive” from Portal, that was his work.
A few years ago, he produced a quite creative cover of the Sir Mix-A-Lot classic, “Baby Got Back,” the entire premise of which has now been shamelessly ripped off by the popular FOX television series “Glee.” His fans, many of whom have previously argued against intellectual property, are absolutely outraged. How dare Glee steal his idea! They should be made to pay for this! He should sue them! Coulton, who has used creative commons licensing (see my earlier post on the hypocrisies of CC) declares that it doesn’t apply, because his CC license specifies non-commercial use.
In other words, Coulton (and the vast majority of his fanbase) clearly support the right of an artist to decide exactly how their ideas (which are also known as “intellectual property”) are used. Presumably, if he has the right to forbid others from copying his music for commercial purposes, then other artists, if they so choose, have the right to forbid others from copying their music for any purpose.
Anyone who is truly against intellectual property should absolutely defend Glee’s right to re-purpose Coulton’s idea. Who does he think he is, selfishly hoarding ideas and preventing them from being distributed to a mass audience? How can he argue that this action by Glee harms him when we all know that ideas do not have scarcity, and that by copying his work, nothing was actually taken from him? Rather, he should thank Glee for improving on his work, and making it more well known to the general public. This is the only consistent position that someone against IP should take in regards to this matter.
In case you’re curious…