Post Academic


Footnotes: Gleek edition

Footnotes is a semi-regular series that collects some stories and postings that are semi-relevant to the semi-academic focus of the blog.  This time around, we found a bunch of music-related things we’ve read–or, in this case, watched–online.  And, if you’re asking, no, I’m not a Gleek myself, but we did get snookered by the American Idol lead-in ploy into watching a few episodes.

"Glee premiere party" by Kristin Dos Santos (Creative Commons license)

Glee Club, Copyright Infringers?: I’m not an intellectual property lawyer (obviously), but this posting by Yale Law fellow Christina Mulligan on the Balkinization blog about Glee and imagined copyright infringement seems kinda humorless in an academic kinda way.  It is pretty interesting, though, that Mulligan uses the hit show as a case study for copyright law, surmising that if the fictional Glee kids really did produce that faux “Vogue” video of Sue Sylvester, they would be owing Madonna something like $150,000.  But by trying to carry over her hypothetical example over to real life, Mulligan overlooks the realities of the culture industry: I imagine the actual licensing of all the pop hits on the show is legally airtight and done with the permission of the copyright holders as cross-promotion that helps both the original artists and the show.  Put it this way: I’m betting that whoever licensed “To Sir with Love” and “Don’t Stop Believin'” for the season finale aren’t worrying so much about dreamed-up copyright transgressions, not when the soundtrack to the show is the #1 downloaded album on iTunes.

Or maybe Mulligan is just trying to become a Glee scriptwriter on the sly, because an episode with the glee club having to stage a fundraiser to pay off licensing fees after being caught for infringing on, say, Hall and Oates’s catalog sounds like it could work?

Librarians Gaga for Gaga: And if Mulligan had her wish, Lady Gaga would have to go after these U Washington information studies folks for some kind of violation.  Their geeky revamping of “Poker Face” into something about search databases and catalogs (see below) is clever enough, even if it’s not as impressive as the choreographed “Telephone” redux by the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.  If there’s one thing Lady Gaga knows, any free promotion at the expense of a little copyright infringement is better than paying for it.

Classics Rock: There’s little chance that the band Glass Wave will be fretting about copyright infringement or piracy violations by Gleeks or YouTube amateurs, though they’ve been cribbing the classics–no doubt out of copyright!  That’s because the great books-inspired kinda rock made by this band of Stanford and UCLA lit profs is anything but the stuff of pop music, with songs that are supposed to turn “old stories into new forms” and “revitalize the source texts that inspire the music”.  According to that trendsetting tastemaker Inside Higher Ed, the band supposedly combines 1970s prog rock sound with the Western canon, evidenced by songs named after Ophelia, Mrs. Bennet, and Lolita.  For scholars invested in lit, they seem to take the music end even more seriously, as Stanford Prof Robert Harrison explains: “This kind of music really stands or falls on how much it translates into aesthetic pleasure,” he says. “It has to succeed musically first and foremost. The lyrics can be absolutely fantastic. But if the music sucks, it’s going nowhere”.  I’m tempted to put my music critic hat on right now, but you can judge for yourself if the music stands or falls on the YouTube below.

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