Toy advert ‘parody’ of Girls fires up the Beastie Boys

December 2013

Music publishing, sound recording, artists


The Beastie Boys are seemingly less than impressed with a ‘parody’ produced by a new toy company called Goldieblox – a video of three girls playing with a Rube Goldberg-type invention and singing alternative lyrics to the Beastie Boys song “Girls.” Since the video went up online it has been viewed more than seven million times. Having received a letter alleging copyright infringement, Goldieblox are now seeking declaratory relief in the federal court in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California. It seems 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 unauthorised use of the Beastie Boys intellectual property is a ‘big problem’ that has a ‘very significant impact.’ It might be one to watch as clearly the ‘parody’ is to promote a commercial concern and sell toys – although it may well have also stoked up a debate on young girl’s interest in science and scientific careers. In the original song, the Beasties sang: “Girls — to do the dishes/ Girls — to clean up my room/ Girls — to do the laundry/ Girls — and in the bathroom/ Girls, that’s all I really want is girls.” The video replaces those lyrics with: “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.”

Despite the fact the video really is a very clever advert for ‘toys for future engineers’, GoldieBox say that they created the video with specific goals to make fun of 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 GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video has gone viral on the Internet and has been recognized by the press and the public as a parody and criticism of the original song.” Responding to that claim, Beastie Boys have now said that they simply contacted the company to discuss the matter, because while they agree with the sentiment of the commercial, they do not allow their music to be used in any adverts ever. In fact Adam Yauch who died recently felt so strongly about this that he had it written into his will.  In an open letter to the company, published in the New York Times, surviving members Mike D and Adam Horowitz said: “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”. However, they continued: “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”.

As the case escalated, a letter back to the was band published on the company’s website from GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling who wrote: “We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans … Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you”. She continues saying that GoldieBlox still believed that it was within its rights to use the song under Fair Use, but having not been aware of Yauch’s wishes previously, would remove it from the advert. “In addition”, she said, “we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team”. My own take remains it’s an advert – albeit a clever advert which did spark a public debate – and which does indeed parody the original song – but a parody for commercial gain.

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