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)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4253 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com