Beastie Boys to GoldieBlox: Thanks for Stealing Our Song AND Suing Us Afterwards!

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Mike D and Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys have responded to toy start-up GoldieBlox. The company parodied the song “Girls” in a recent viral advertisement featuring three girls and their Rube Goldberg machine. GoldieBlox filed a lawsuit against the Beastie Boys, who consider the parody to be copyright infringement.

“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.”

Keep in mind that Ad-Rock is married to Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna.

“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.”

Watch the video in question below:

14 Responses

  1. Laurlen

    I’m confused. What was Goldieblocks able to base their lawsuit on?

    • Anonymous

      The voices in their heads.

      Let’s hope it’ll cost them every cent they’ve got.

    • Anonymous

      “makes me want to pull a hair from my nose and shed a tear for them”

      Haha yeah, boo-hoo. 🙂

      Geez man, Silicon Valley is turning into an organized crime syndicate these days. 🙁

  2. jw

    It’s interesting how polarizing this whole thing was.

    Personally, I’m conflicted because I love the Beastie Boys & I think MCA’s wishes ought to be respected, but I’m for fair use precisely because of albums like Paul’s Boutique. My favorite Beastie Boys album just happens to be almost entirely stitched together from other artists’ work.

    I think that the ad was in poor taste, but I think they would’ve won in court based on Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., which was perhaps in even poorer taste.

    A lot of artist seem to want complete control of their own work, including a complete exclusion of derivative works being used in advertising, but that’s not in the law, & thankfully so because I’m not sure it would be beneficial to society, ultimately.

    I think citing MCA’s wishes, but standing their ground legally, was the most tactful out they could’ve made. I’ll be surprised if they don’t continue to make these parody commercials, licensed or otherwise.

  3. axgrindr

    “and GoldieBlox preemptively asked a court to declare it legal fair use”

    I really don’t understand the complete ignorance of what ‘fair use’ actually is. So many people think they can just use any copyrighted material they want in a project and then call it ‘fair use’.
    Fair use is pretty limited in its scope. People seem to think “because I use it, it must be fair use”.

    • jw

      The reason that this would likely constitute fair use is that they changed the words to specifically change the meaning of the song & re-recorded the track. From my understanding, the only way I could see it not being ruled fair use is if the original song was deemed to be itself a parody of “macho” rap, meaning the new lyrics wouldn’t necessarily be very transformative, but, given the their behavior around the time the song was released, they’d have a hard time convincing the judge of that.

      Again, I think the precedent here is Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp..

      “I can only reconcile these disparate elements by returning to the core purpose of copyright: to foster the creation and dissemination of the greatest number of creative works. The end result of the Nielsen ad parodying the Moore photograph is that the public now has before it two works, vastly different in appeal and nature, where before there was only one.”

  4. David

    Does anyone know if the US ‘fair use’ doctrine applies separately to the words and music of a song? If it does, then it would be possible for a use of the song (e.g. a parody) to constitute fair use with respect to one component but not the other. In the Goldieblox case the ‘parody’ seems to apply only to the words.

  5. Becky Bishop

    The fact remains that ANY use of music should be properly cleared and authorized prior to use. Artists have the right to discriminate WHO uses their music for any given PURPOSE. Apparently GoldieBlox did NOT get a license prior to airing music in commercial.

    • jw

      This just isn’t how the law is written.

      The track itself, if it wasn’t specifically released in the commercial, isn’t terribly different than what Jimmy Fallon does on his show, or did on SNL for so many years. That’s parody, & the nature of parody, in that it’s oftentimes critical of or irreverent towards the original work, shouldn’t require the approval of the original artist.

  6. cjhoffmn

    This doesn’t seem to me like a clear cut win for GoldieBlox as fair use. Just because they changed the words, it’s not a parody. The new wording has to be a commentary and make fun of the original song for it to be a parody. The test is a subjective one, so you’d have to side by side the lyrics of the GB rendition to see if that’s what they did, but I doubt that it would qualify, given they were trying to promote their own cause. It would seem to me it’s a derivative work and that BB was entirely within their rights to get them to pull it down.

    Unless they were trying to use one of the other fair use outs (other than a parody) and say that it was a social commentary or something, seems that the intent was to highlight their own cause using the recognition and goodwill created by the BB. While always hard to predict – seems to me BB had the stronger case.