No Sleep Till Justice? Beastie Boys countersue GoldieBlox over parody ad

Screen-Shot-2013-11-27-at-9.33.16-AM-1It seems that GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys haven’t found a resolution to their conflict over the toy company’s use of a parody of the band’s song “Girls” in an advertisement, despite GoldieBlox’s conciliatory open letter and decision to remove the song from the ad.

The Beastie Boys have filed a countersuit against GoldieBlox, claiming that the parody of their song still qualifies as copyright infringement, and that the company’s original use of the band’s name qualifies as trademark infringement. GoldieBlox had originally filed a suit asking for declaratory judgment ruling that the company’s use of “Girls” was protected under Fair Use, after the Boys’ lawyers allegedly called the company with legal threats.

The original ad changed the lyrics of the song to celebrate the idea of girls getting into technology and engineering. The ad features running a Rube Goldberg Machine made out of traditional toys.

Following some harsh words from the Beastie Boys, Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox’s founder, CEO and a former Seattle resident, pulled the music from the ad and changed the title, saying that the company would be happy to drop its lawsuit, so long as the band also backed off.

Well, it seems like whatever behind-the-scenes negotiations that were happening between the two parties fell apart.

This is an important case for the Beastie Boys, who have a long-standing policy of not allowing companies to use their music in advertisements, which was recently underscored by the death of Adam Yauch, who reiterated the policy in his will.

Still, it’s far from an open-and-shut case for the Beastie Boys. Parody is protected under fair use, and even though GoldieBlox was using the song for commercial gain, it may qualify for Fair Use protection. It’s entirely possible both parties will go to all this trouble just for GoldieBlox to come out triumphant.

Here’s the full filing, via GigaOM:

Beastie Boys Response to GoldieBlox by jeff_roberts881

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a look at the Beastie Boys-free version of the ad:

  • Paul Uhlir

    What a shame it has come to this. Stealing music is not good but I can’t help but think that Adam Yauch, in his elevated state in his later years, would allow this one to slide given it empowers girls.

    • big will

      I think MCA would be more okay with it if it was ONLY empowering girls, not empowering a product.

      • GoldieExploit

        …not an empowering product that’s made in China (possibly by children?), and puts makeup on little girls in their commercials… you know, ’cause little girls just aren’t good enough for selling a product without adding a bit of superficial to them.

  • David237856

    There’s another aspect to this. The GoldieBlox ad refers to a ‘Rube Goldberg machine’. But the phrase ‘Rube Goldberg machine’ is a registered trademark of Rube Goldberg, Inc. Did GoldieBlox obtain a license to use it? And what about the other songs they have used, like Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’, without any obvious parody intent? Did they get clearance for these? They seem to have taken the ads down from YouTube, which suggests that they didn’t. It begins to look as if they or their ad agency have a bad habit of using other people’s stuff to sell their own.