No sleep till the Beastie Boys resolve their conflict with GoldieBlox, a start-up toymaker aimed at raising girls’ involvement in science and technology. The pathfinding New York hip-hop group has published an open letter to the company, which released an admittedly awesome commercial remaking Licensed to Ill‘s “Girls” as a feminist jingle and then preemptively sued the Beasties in a copyright fight.
As The New York Times was first to report, the open letter praises the ad and its message but says the group doesn’t allow its work to be used to hawk someone else’s wares, no matter how worthy. “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,” the open letter reads. “When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”
The offending ad, which has more than 8 million views on Facebook, shows girls tinkering around with a Rube Goldberg machine. It’s all set to a version of “Girls” that turns the 1986 original’s “do the dishes”/”do the laundry” role for women into something more positive: “Girls build a spaceship / Girls code the new app / Girls that grow up knowing / They can engineer that.”
GoldieBlox preemptively sued the Beasties Boys on November 21, alleging the the rappers had threated to file a copyright infringement lawsuit of their own. The company argued in the complaint that it “created its parody video specifically to comment on the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes.” GoldieBlox wants a judge to give the video an official all-clear. They’ve previously used songs by Queen and others for ads.
It’ll be up to the lawyers to figure out who’s in the right here. It’s usually easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but anyone familiar with the late Adam “MCA” Yauch’s legacy might have been tempted to honor the famous “no advertising” clause in the Beastie Boy’s will. “Girls” is ripe for feminist satire, but an adult of either gender could probably have handled this without getting preemptively litigous. As always, just because Robin Thicke does it does not make it okay.
Read the full open letter below.
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.