Last week, toy company GoldieBlox made a splash with a new ad that featured a chorus of girls singing a parody of the Beastie Boys’ hit “Girls.” The lyrics were changed to celebrate the idea of girls getting into technology, featuring a group of girls operating a Rube Goldberg Machine.
It seems that ad may have struck a nerve with the Beastie Boys. On Thursday, GoldieBlox, a company with ties to Seattle, filed a lawsuit claiming that the Beastie Boys had “lashed out and accused GoldieBlox of copyright infringement.” The company is claiming that its advertisement doesn’t infringe on the band’s copyright because the music included is a parody, and falls under the Fair Use doctrine. In the suit, GoldieBlox calls the song “Girls” “highly sexist.”
In the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ song entitled Girls, 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. The GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video takes direct aim at the song both visually and with a revised set of lyrics celebrating the many capabilities of girls. Set to the tune of Girls but with a new recording of the music and new lyrics, girls are heard singing an anthem celebrating their broad set of capabilities—exactly the opposite of the message of the original. They are also shown engaging in activities far beyond what the Beastie Boys song would permit. GoldieBlox created its parody video specifically to comment on 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.
The Boys shot back in a press release, saying that while they appreciate the ad and what GoldieBlox is trying to do, it still runs up against the band’s longstanding policy of barring commercial entities from using the band’s music and name to sell products.
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.
The case could have significant ramifications for the band and GoldieBlox, considering that the company is also a part of Intuit’s Small Business Big Game competition, which bestows an ad spot at the Super Bowl to its winner.
Debbie Sterling, the founder of GoldieBlox used to live in Seattle with her husband Beau, who was a project manager at Zillow.
Oakland-based GoldieBlox declined to comment on the band’s statement for this report. A full copy of the company’s complaint (via The Hollywood Reporter) is below.