When GoldieBlox's "Princess Machine" ad hit the internet last week, it immediately went viral. And no wonder -- during a season when the toy industry's extreme gender-based marketing really hits home, it's hard to see who wouldn't want to support a toy that steers girls away from an E-Z Bake Oven towards engineering.
The ad, which has been viewed over eight million times, featured three girls constructing Rube Goldberg-type contraptions to the tune of the Beastie Boys' song 'Girls.' The video itself is cool, but it was the use of that specific song that, shall we say, made the commercial sing.
Off the Beasties' 1986 breakthrough smash album "License To Ill," the original song's overt sexism can't even be excused by the punk rock irony that imbues the rest of that record. So GoldieBlox replaced the original's lyrics about girls doing laundry and the dishes: "Girls -- to build the spaceship / Girls -- to code the new app / Girls -- to grow up knowing / That they can engineer that / Girls. That's all we really need is girls."
Its reworking felt clever -- but it also felt off. After all, no Beasties tune had ever been used in an ad before. In fact, when group member Adam "MCA" Yauch died of cancer last year, his Will specifically stated: "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes."
Late last week, the Hollywood Reporter ran a story about a copyright dispute brewing between the two parties. They reported that GoldieBlox filed a lawsuit claiming "the Beastie Boys have now threatened GoldieBlox with copyright infringement. Lawyers for the Beastie Boys claim that the GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video is a copyright infringement, is not a fair use and that GoldieBlox's unauthorized use of the Beastie Boys intellectual property is a 'big problem' that has a 'very significant impact.' "
Then today, the Beasties responded with an open letter, published in the New York Times, in which they dismiss the claims of fair use as a parody because the song is being used to make money.
"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."
This issue will be settled in or out of court, but though GoldieBlox' original message is undeniably a good one -- as they claim, their goal was 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" -- even little kids know that you're not allowed to take something that isn't yours without permission.
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