Beastie Boys' public fight with GoldieBlox just took an uncompromising new turn. The pioneering rap group has sued the toy startup for copyright infringement. According to the court filing, first published by Gigaom, the Beastie Boys argue GoldieBlox's rewrite of "Girls" for a toy commercial was not "fair use" of their song. The lawsuit also demands any profits the company made from the ad.
At least as far as complex litigation goes, the Beastie Boys' counterclaim against GoldieBlox doesn't mince words. The suit alleges that GoldieBlox "has acted intentionally and despicably with oppression, fraud, and malice toward the Beastie Boys Parties." Oppression — they're being oppresssed!
The legal action comes after what first looked like an endearing, feminist revamp of a misogyny-themed track has instead started to resemble a cynical Silicon Valley marketing ploy. GoldieBlox, taking a page out of the Robin Thicke handbook, preemptively sued the Beastie Boys to protect the pre-Thanksgiving ad, which reworks the "Girls" lyrics for a girl-power message. After the Beasties responded with a disarmingly classy open letter, the toy company dropped the song from its ad and issued an open letter professing Beasties love.
Barring a settlement, a judge will now decide whether GoldieBlox's "Girls" parody constitutes fair use. The Supreme Court has previously held that a parody used to sell products receives less deference from the court than a parody sold for its own sake, as Reuters' Felix Salmon observed. It's also worth noting that the late Adam "MCA" Yauch had a "no advertising" clause in his will. And, as the Beastie Boys' point out in their lawsuit, GoldieBlox has a track record of using songs by the likes of Queen and Daft Punk into commercials without permission.
Whatever the courts decide, it's hard to fault the Beasties for fighting for their, ahem, right — if GoldieBlox had been able to use "Girls" for a commercial without getting sued, what's to stop any other well-funded venture with a little hubris from violating Yauch's last wishes? The GoldieBlox saga has turned out to follow the life cycle of most viral videos: maybe charming at first, but eventually infuriating. You know who else should start suing is that Rube Goldberg guy.