This is an unfortunate potential lawsuit, where both parties seem to be in the moral right, and it’s impossible to choose a side. The Beastie Boys are threatening to sue Goldiebox, the toy company trying to inspire girls to go into engineering, that released this delightful, amazing empowering commercial last week. The commercial went viral almost immediately. It’s now been seen over 8 million times, and I’m sure that there are going to be a ton of Goldiebox toy sets under Christmas trees this year.
Here’s the thing, though: The song parody will almost certainly be allowed under fair use laws. It’s pretty much the very definition of a legal song parody (which are allowed, even for commercial purposes). Moreover, it’s hard initially to understand why the Beastie Boys are even suing in the first place: They have all but disavowed that song because of its sexist nature. They’ve never played it live, and even offered an indirect apology for it on their 1994 song, “Sure Shot”: “I want to say something that’s long overdue / the disrespect to women has got to be through / to all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I wanna offer my love and respect to the end.”
So why would the Beastie Boys sue a toy company for transforming a song whose message they have disavowed into a message they would support? Good question. But the answer is simple: Because Adam Yauch, who died last year, put a clause into his will ensuring that no Beastie Boys song will ever be used in an advertisement.
Oh, now I understand.
So, presumably the threatened lawsuit by the two remaining members of The Beastie Boys is being done in the spirit of MCA’s will, allowing the surviving members of the Beastie Boys to rest easy, knowing they at least tried to honor Yauch’s wishes, even though they are almost certain to lose and should lose their legal fight, not only for legal reasons, but because that commercial is awesome.
UPDATE — It seems that the “threat” of lawsuit had been blown out of proportion. It was merely an inquiry, according to the Beastie Boys, who released the following statement:
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. (via)