The rap group Beastie Boys is in the middle of a lawsuit over the use of one of their songs in an online viral video. While the immediate reaction might be “It’s not surprising they’re suing someone for using one of their songs,” hold on. The company that released the video is suing the Beastie Boys.
Here’s what happened: GoldieBlox, a company that makes toys and games designed to get girls interested in learning about science and technology, has released a video for their line of products, which uses the song “Girls,” with altered lyrics. Instead of “Girls to do the dishes. Girls to clean up my room. Girls to do the laundry. Girls and in the bathroom,” the song goes, “Girls build a spaceship. Girls code the new app. Girls that grow up knowing. That they can engineer that.”
Everything seems good and well so far, at least it was until GoldieBlox filed a lawsuit against the Beasties. The rap trio has always turned down their songs being used to sell products, so when they heard “Girls” pop up in the commercial, they decided to see what was going on. After inquiring about its use, GoldieBlox filed their suit, which claims they are legally using the track, as it’s a parody of the original song, which furthers “the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes.”
GoldieBlox also says the song and video are viewed by the public as a comment on the Beastie Boys’ work and and that the group “threatened GoldieBlox with copyright infringement.” The Beasties tell a different story, according to the New York Times.
The surviving members of the group, Mike D (Michael Diamond) and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) responded to the lawsuit Monday (November 25) with an open letter:
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.
What needs to be determined now is if the commercial actually does fall under the umbrella of fair use, as a work of parody. Both sides are receiving support and many parody law and fair use conflicts are decided on a case-by-case basis, as the law isn’t as clear as one would expect.
GoldieBlox has yet to respond to the letter from the Beastie Boys.