Songwriters, you have to be careful out there. The web is alive with another case of writers getting the hard edge of a deal. Toy company Goldieblox create toys that are supposed to empower girls. For their latest ad they decided to show three girls bored by TV ads and that decide to build their own machine. So far, so good. But then someone had the idea of using a song by the Beastie Boys – without asking them – and rewriting the lyrics – without asking them. There have been cases like this in India.
There are a number of twists. First, the now-deceased Adam Yauch expressed the wish in his will that Beastie Boys music never be used in advertising. Does this not count? Also, it turns out that the company has now filed a suit to try and prevent the copyright owners from suing them. How many ways are there to stab a guy’s rights?
Goldieblox vs Beastie Boys
There has been much debate about this being a parody of the Beastie Boys. But it’s not: it’s a commercial to sell toys. That is the reason that the money was spent and the production team were paid over three weeks to build the machine, film and edit it. The fact that they used and changed someone else’s copyright along the way was just a means towards that sales-driven end. Goldieblox are not performers, social commentators or political activists. They are in business to sell boxes of toys. And as we can see, they feel it is better to pay lawyers than to pay composers.
And just in case that anyone feels they are unaware of what they are doing, the video on YouTube is billed as “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg, & Beastie Boys “Princess Machine” (a concert for little girls)” – as if the Beastie Boys were associated with it or approved it in any way.
Following the suit issued by Goldieblox, Beastie Boys addressed them an open letter:
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.
UPDATE: November 28. Goldieblox have changed the video, replacing the Beastie Boys with another track (anyone know who?).