Christina Mulligan argues that among the areas where the hit Fox show Glee diverges from reality is that copyright infringement is a source of spiritual uplift, instead of litigation:
In one recent episode, the AV Club helps cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester film a near-exact copy of Madonna’s Vogue music video (the real-life fine for copying Madonna’s original? up to $150,000). Just a few episodes later, a video of Sue dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 hit Physical is posted online (damages for recording the entirety of Physical on Sue’s camcorder: up to $300,000). And let’s not forget the glee club’s many mash-ups — songs created by mixing together two other musical pieces... Punishment for making each mash-up? Up to another $150,000 — times two.
A caveat: I've never seen Glee. Musicals give me the heebee jeebees. But Mulligan seems to have a fairly brilliant point. On Glee, belting out Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" during trying times is rightly portrayed as life-affirming. That's an admission that the creativity of others is the stuff of further creativity, of joy. But as Mulligan points out, the big copyright holders (MPAA, RIAA) have aggressively targeted young people for covering, remixing, mashing up -- doing the same things that the kids on Glee are celebrated for doing.
There's a certain irony in the fact that Glee plays on Fox. Fox Broadcasting Company is enjoying the fruits of a TV show centered around a bunch of well-meaning copyright infringers while having taken a disproportionate response to copyright in the past. Larry Lessig tells an amazing story in
his book, Free Culture. A documentary filmmaker, putting together a film on Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung, asked The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening
if it was okay to use four-and-a-half seconds of footage where stagehands have the Simpsons playing on a television in the background -- The Simpsons plus Wagner is funny, right? Groening said sure, but just check with the show's production company. The company said sure, but just go check with Fox. Fox said sure -- but it's going to cost you $10,000.