Beastie Boys In Copyright Infringement Tussle With GoldieBlox Over Use Of “Girls” Parody In Ad

It seems like you couldn’t go on Facebook or Twitter this week without seeing at least eleventy billion posts sharing a new ad from GoldieBlox, a company that makes toys and games aimed at getting girls interested in science, engineering and tech stuff. It’s a fun video, with a Rube Goldberg-esque “set’em up and watch’em” fall bit and a reworked parody of “Girls” by the Beastie Boys. But the company is now suing the band over what it sees as its right to use the song, something the Boys are not cool with at all.

Last Thursday GoldieBlox filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in California, claiming the band was threatening copyright infringement, but that the toy makers have the right to use the music in its now viral video. GoldieBlox says it “created its parody video specifically to comment on the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes.”

It should be fair use, argues GoldieBlox, as the ad“has been recognized by the press and the public as a parody and criticism of the original song.”

The lyrics to the original Beastie Boys song “Girls” off the album License to Ill are changed from: “Girls to do the dishes/Girls to clean up my room/Girls to do the laundry/Girls and in the bathroom” to reflect that goal: “Girls build a spaceship/Girls code the new app/Girls that grow up knowing/That they can engineer that.”

But according to an open letter from the Beastie Boys, which is quoted on the New York Times’ Arts Beat blog, the band had no choice but to respond in light of its policy to never allow Beastie Boys music in ads. And while it’s great that GoldieBlox wants to empower girls, when you get right down to it the company is still trying to sell something.

The full open letter from the Beastie Boys reads:

Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad.

We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.

As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads.

When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.

What do you think?

Beastie Boys Fight Online Video Parody of ‘Girls’ [New York Times Arts Beat]

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  1. oomingmak says:

    I’m not buying Goldieblox’s claim that their *advertisement* was solely intended to be a parody. Doesn’t a lack of commercialism go hand-in-hand- with the fair use clause?

    Regardless, way to burn through a lot of goodwill there GoldieBlox. I guess I’ll need to find another product to help empower my two daughters this holiday season.

  2. smirkette says:

    If this were an ad for a non-profit that provided STEM- or STEAM-focused educational services targeting girls, then I would be disappointed in the Beastie Boys. But given that it’s for a commercial business, I think they’re absolutely correct in their response.

  3. IMakeMyOwnSnarkAtHome says:

    Adam Yuach specifically stated in his will that he did not want any part of his image, music, or art he created to be used in any advertisement. Even if the song is found to be in fair use, the intent behind it is a direct insult and spit in the face of MCA.

  4. Raekwon says:

    It’s like Bill Watterson all over again. It may fall under parody and fair use but why can’t companies respect artists that never want their stuff used to sell products? If they licensed their stuff regularly that’s one thing but these guys never did for any cause.

  5. Raekwon says:

    I just noticed this commercial is a favorite to win Intuit’s free Superbowl commercial contest. Everyone should write Intuit to protest it for copyright infringement.

    • Cheapocabra says:

      I’m hoping the controversy will lead Intuit to disqualify the ad. Yeah, it’s a cute video, but it’s just lifting the song entirely, to their gain. Weird Al pays royalties for the use of a song in his parodies, which means he has to go through all the legal wrangling before he can put a parody on an album. Why should this company not be held to the same standard for their use?