Boys vs. Girls: Beastie Boys Countersue GoldieBlox Over Song Misuse

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The Beastie Boys’ “Girls” isn’t exactly a feminist manifesto with its expression of why the singer loves women so much, explained with such lyrics as, “Girls – to do the dishes/ Girls – to clean up my room.”

So when GoldieBlox, a toy company focused on building playthings that will help girls excel in math and science, set out to promote itself, it took the Boys’ tune from 1987 and completely rewrote the lyrics to say such empowering things as, “Girls, to build a spaceship / Girls, to code a new app.” 

And while plenty of people were fans of the company’s re-worked version, which was used in an online video advert for the toys, the remaining Beastie Boys and the estate of Adam “MCA” Yauch were caught off-guard, especially since GoldieBlox didn’t have express permission and because the band had always vowed not to let their music be used in any advertising.[more]

But GoldieBlox claims the video is just a parody and isn’t advertising, even going as far to file an initial suit to protect themselves—a move that didn’t go over well with the band. Now the Beastie Boys have countered the suit, claiming copyright and trademark infringement, false advertising, false endorsement and unfair competition.  

“Unfortunately, rather than developing an original advertising campaign to inspire its customers to create and innovate, GoldieBlox has instead developed an advertising campaign that condones and encourages stealing from others,” the suit says, according to Variety.

Legal analysts are divided as to who will win the battle, particularly since GoldieBlox isn’t your typical company. “The greater message is, ‘Let’s rethink how we stereotype what’s a girl’s role, or what a girl’s product might be,’” Julie Ahrens, director of Copyright and Fair Use at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, told The Huffington Post. “So this product itself has its own social goal as well. So I think that gives the GoldieBlox some real ammunition in a fair use argument … And frankly, as far as whether it’s commercial or not, they aren’t selling a CD that’s competing with the Beastie Boys music.”

In the end, GoldieBlox has a lot more at stake than the now-retired boy band. The company is a finalist in Intuit’s Small Business Super Bowl ad contest, where the winning company earns a spot in the telecast of what is arguably the biggest advertising event of the year. 

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