Quoted: You gotta fight for your right to copyright? On GoldieBlox vs. the Beastie Boys

“We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering. … Make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product.”

The Beastie Boys, in a letter to toy maker GoldieBlox, which filed suit late last week against the band. How does a viral video (with more than 8 million page views as of this post) turn into a battle over copyright? GoldieBlox, a toy maker whose video ad — set to the music of the Beastie Boys’ “Girls” — received much coverage and props last week, said in its lawsuit that the band had threatened it with copyright infringement. The Beastie Boys deny being heavy-handed: “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 band said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

GoldieBlox, a San Francisco-based maker of educational toys meant to encourage girls to get interested in engineering, was founded in 2012 by Debbie Sterling, who graduated from Stanford with a mechanical-engineering degree and also has marketing experience. GoldieBlox’s lawsuit says the video parodied “Girls,” but “lawyers for the Beastie Boys claim that the GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video is a copyright infringement, is not a fair use.”

Here’s an excerpt from the original song:

Girls: to do the dishes
Girls: to clean up my room
Girls: to do the laundry
Girls: and in the bathroom

And here’s an excerpt from GoldieBlox’s video, which is below:

Girls: to build the spaceship
Girls: to code the new app
Girls: to grow up knowing
That they can engineer that


Photo at top: Beastie Boys members Adam Yauch “MCA,” center, Adam Horovitz “Adrock,” left, and Mike Diamond “Mike D,” reflected in a mirror, pose for a photograph in Toronto in 2006. Yauch died last year. (The Canadian Press/Associated Press)


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  • Steve Hammill

    The words aren’t the problem until the words are put the Beastie Boys music; then you have copyright infringement because no fair use exists WRT the sale or advertising of commercial products.

    • Clay Butler

      Unless the parody is the product itself. Then fair use applies. Like2 Live Crew’s parody of Pretty Woman, or Good Night Keith Moon which is a parody of Goodnight Moon. The distinction also has to do with whether the parody is a parody of the source itself, or the original source is being altered to make another point.

      • Steve Hammill

        Not an attorney, but have paid attorneys tidy sums to protect my copyrights.

        As to your assertion: even though SCOTUS ruled in favor of 2 Live Crew; it won’t be a slam dunk for GoldieBlox. Unless the lower courts decide that GoldieBlox = 2 Live Crew by SCOTUS, it could be another case Supreme Court bound.

        Even though my copyright defenses involved fair use claims, my work was neither a parody nor parodied.

        • Clay Butler

          Oh, I don’t think GoldieBox qualifies as fair use. Not because they are making money, but because the copyrighted work is being appropriated for something else. They are not making a commentary of the the song itself, just taking the tune and writing new lyrics to promote and comment on something entirely different

          • Rob

            They certainly want everyone to believe that the video is a commentary on “Girls”, but clearly it’s selling toys. Not to mention the fact that the original lyrics were already satire about sexism.