Copyright infringement is the subject at hand and the violated are The Beastie Boys, who are being sued by a company called Goldieblox, who used the group’s song “Girls” for one of their ads. This seems to have been a pre-emptive strike by the toy company, whose suit’s main focal point is that the band threatened the company with a copyright infringement lawsuit.
The ad has the visual imagery of three girls playing with a contraption straight out of the whimsical and intricately creative mind of Rube Goldberg to the tune of “Girls,” but with the original lyrics changed to reflect female empowerment. As usually is the wont, the video went viral with over seven million hits when the brouhaha started, kickstarting a backlash and flurry of lawyers textually exclaiming that the copyright infringement does not fall into the fair use category, that the use of the song’s intellectual property has been infringed upon, and it’s a “big problem that has a significant impact.”
The toy company’s video was so impressive that once the subject of copyright infringement came up, people immediately assumed that The Beastie Boys initiated a lawsuit. Beastie Adam Horovitz, aka Ad-Rock, took to Twitter to stress that it’s the band that’s being sued.
You guys..Don't get it twisted. We did not threaten to sue Goldiblox..THEY'RE SUING US. http://t.co/xCxnuJxjI5
Goldieblox, with all the publicity surrounding the lawsuit, is sure to reap the 15 minutes of fame here in the coming holiday season. The company mainly markets intellectual style toys for girls. The biggest question at hand here is that while the usage may be under serious legal scrutiny, the company and the initial intent seems a lot less salacious than it could have been, under more shady conglomerates who might have used the song. But just because Goldieblox has a noble product doesn’t mean they can use someone’s song without permission in their advertisements. The company’s only leg to stand on is if they can prove fair use, in which intellectual property, when used in a manner of parody, is legally sound for usage, while The Beastie Boys have a strong case in that this is an advertisement for a product, not a joke.
The band has since officially acknowledged the situation in an open letter released on Monday, stating that while they’re impressed by the creativity angle and approach of the video, Goldieblox should still tread lightly, as the “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.” It also makes note of the fact that Goldieblox is suing them, not vice versa.
Here’s the open letter in full that we were emailed on Monday morning:
OPEN LETTER FROM BEASTIE BOYS’ MIKE D & ADROCK TO GOLDIEBLOX
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.
In the lawsuit, which you can view here, Goldieblox describes the original version of “Girls” as a “highly sexist song,” and makes it a point to say that in the lyrics “girls are limited (at best) to household chores, and are presented as useful only to the extent they fulfill the wishes of the male subjects,” and that their version “girls are heard singing an anthem celebrating their broad set of capabilities—exactly the opposite of the message of the original.” While these statements are accurate – and the band has already acknowledged the video’s creative use of their song — The Beastie Boys have long since distanced themselves from their misogynistic lyrics of old. “Girls” is on their breakout album Licensed to Ill released in 1987, a time when the group was more concerned with partying than anything else — they’ve certainly come a long way since then.
Regardless of whether the original lyrics were sexist or if The Beastie Boys appreciate the video, what it comes down to is, does Goldieblox’s revision of the song fall under fair use or does it, in fact, infringe upon copyright. Does the fact that the band does not want their songs used in advertisements – and it’s clear that this video in an ad – hold any weight in this lawsuit.
You can view the video ad here below. Is it infringing on one’s artistic and intellectual rights, or this fair use? You be the judge… for now, till this thing gets to court.