Did Chris Daughtry cross the line?
That's the question "American Idol" chat-room devotees are debating after the rocker sang a rendition of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" Tuesday nearly identical to a version Live recorded for a 2001 compilation — without giving them credit.
Daughtry never claimed it was his arrangement outright, but the judges seemingly assumed it was his, praising him for the arrangement. Live, who also included the cover on their 2004 greatest-hits album, were never mentioned.
Last week Daughtry sang Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" in an arrangement similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1989 cover, but fully acknowledged it in his pre-performance segment. For that reason fans in various chat rooms believe he was not trying to mislead the public with "I Walk the Line" and have suggested he might have mentioned Live, only to see it edited out.
As is the case with all the remaining contestants, Daughtry is not available for comment and a spokesperson for "American Idol" had no comment.
After the 26-year-old McLeansville, North Carolina, native performed Tuesday, Randy Jackson praised him for taking a song everyone knows and putting a twist on it. Simon Cowell said he made a great song his own.
Jacob Clifton, who covers "Idol" for TelevisionWithoutPity.com, noted that a similar situation happened last season after Carrie Underwood sang the Janis Joplin staple "Piece of My Heart" in a rendition similar to Faith Hill's.
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"I think it's more a sign of the judges being out of touch or the show's producers deliberately trying to fool the public," Clifton said. "The fact is Chris should not be blamed for using the arrangements that he does. I think the show does him a disservice by not being open about it because in the end it's going to come out. And since his appeal is in being real ... it could hurt his musical career in the long run. I would make sure the judges knew that the arrangements were from recent covers."
Also quick to defend Daughtry was Kimberly Caldwell, a second-season finalist and current host of the TV Guide Channel's "Idol Tonight."
"That's stupid, so what?" she said. "We're doing cover songs, so leave it alone. Who cares? He didn't steal it and say, 'I wrote these words.' Everybody needs to get over it and find something else to talk about. It makes me really angry because I'm a huge Chris Daughtry fan and everybody really enjoyed that performance. Maybe somebody should have said, 'And I wanted to get the vibe of Live' as well, but they didn't, so whatever. Let's move on."
Not so fast, said DJSlim, who writes a popular "Idol" blog at Idol.Slimtainment.com.
"The bottom line is stealing and taking credit for Live's works should result in Chris being removed from the show or at least having to make a public apology," he said. "I know it is a strong punishment but in the day of copyrights and trademarks, 'Idol' is the first to send the law in after us when we steal their work, so why should they allow their contestants to do the same?"
David Bloomberg, editor of RealityNewsOnline.com and FoxesOnIdol.com, concurred with DJSlim.
"He definitely should not have taken credit for the arrangement or allowed people to praise his originality," Bloomberg said. "In his video piece, he talked about doing something different with the arrangement when he had to know he was simply using somebody else's arrangement. Then he stood onstage and let the judges talk about how he made it his own when he really did nothing of the sort."
Calls to Live's management were not returned by press time.
Cowell has called Daughtry one of his three favorites to win, along with Taylor Hicks and Kellie Pickler (see " 'American Idol' Final 12 Celebrate Making The Cut").