Goldieblox, a company that makes stereotype-defying toys for girls, rocketed to internet fame with this ad that went viral:
Recognize the song? Of course you do, it’s based on the Beastie Boys’ 1987 hit Girls. And it turns out the Beastie Boys did not grant permission to Goldieblox to use Girls. In fact, the Beastie Boys never granted permission to anyone to use their songs for commercial purposes.
Beastie Boys Ad-Rock and Mike D (the third member of the trio, MCA, passed away last year) released an open letter to Goldieblox, explaining their opposition:
“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.”
On top of not getting permission from the Beastie Boys, Goldieblox (perhaps unknowingly), defied the last line of MCA, a.k.a. Adam Yauch’s will: "in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes."
Putting the dying wishes of MCA aside for a moment, what’s with Goldiebox suing the Beastie Boys? The lawsuit isn’t seeking damages, Goldiebox wants the court to issue an opinion that they had the right to use Girls. It’s a preemptive strike against future legal action by the Beastie Boys.
The heart of the issue is whether Goldiebox “transformed” Girls into a new work. There is no scientific way to determine that. It’s entirely a judgment call.
As for whether it was ethical for Goldiebox to use Girls, that is a separate matter, and for most, easier to decide: no. It’s entirely possible that Goldiebox didn’t know about the Beastie Boys’ ban on using their music for commercial purposes, and MCA’s dying wish, but they do now. And they responded with preemptive legal action.
Funny how Goldiebox, a company based around empowering girls, is having its reputation tarnished by the Beastie Boys.