Last week, we showed you this new advertisement from the girls toy company GoldieBlox, spoofing the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls.” Well, the company’s use of the song has sparked a legal battle over copyright infringement — but before you assume that it’s the Beastie Boys suing GoldieBlox, think again. According to The Hollywood Reporter, while the band claims that the inclusion of “Girls” in the video doesn’t fall under fair use and is a “big problem” that has a “very significant impact,” it’s GoldieBlox that’s preemptively suing the Beastie Boys, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to “vindicate the rights” of the toy company. Their argument is that the lyrics to “Girls” are sexist and therefore their use of that song in an ad related to little girls’ empowerment qualifies as “parody.”
The Beastie Boys themselves have long ago apologized for and distanced themselves from “Girls.” They included an apology for the lyrics in the liner notes of their Best Of album, refuse to play the song live, and won’t allow it to be included in any greatest hits albums or compilations. So yes, GoldieBlox certainly has the Beastie Boys own public remarks on “Girls” to support their argument that the song is sexist and poking fun at it in their ad would qualify as parody. GoldieBlox says its objective was to “make fun of the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes and to encourage young girls to engage in activities that challenge their intellect, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.”
However, when Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch died last year from cancer, he made it explicitly clear in his will that he did not want the Beastie Boys music to be used in advertisements. All that being said, the Beastie Boys never expressed an intent to sue GoldieBlox, so GoldieBlox’s preemptive lawsuit is offensive rather than defensive and pretty shady if you ask me. A representative for the Beastie Boys explained: “There was no complaint filed, no demand letter (no demand, for that matter) when [GoldieBlox] sued Beastie Boys.”
GoldieBlox seems like they’re doing cool stuff, but at the end of the day, they’re still a company tryin’ to make some coin. While I certainly see how their use of “Girls” would qualify as parody, “parody” is NOT a good enough reason to rip off an artist’s work in order to sell products, even if it comes with some girls’ empowerment on the side. [Huffington Post]
UPDATE: Beastie Boys Adam “Adrock” Horowitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond released the following statement:
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.