It started last week. All of my social media timelines started sharing and gushing over the same video advertisement for a new toy concept for girls: blocks. All of the messages from my friends were some variation of, “this is the best thing EVER,” “Girl power,” “I HAVE to get this for my daughter!” — so all in all, it’s a very well done advertisement campaign.
However, not everyone was thrilled to see the video. One of the hooks of the ad is that they use “Girls” the familiar Beastie Boys song, but have rewritten the lyrics.
The only problem with doing that is a little something called copyright infringement. The Beastie Boys are not okay with their song being taken and used. Attorneys from the Beastie Boys contacted the creators of GoldieBlox and in response to that, GoldieBlox has filed a civil action suit to attempt to declare their video, which they are calling a parody, protected under the Fair Use Doctrine.
The complaint filed got me just a bit riled up. The makers of GoldieBlox go to great lengths to dig at the original song by the Beastie Boys within their suit. They say:
“In the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ song entitled Girls, girls are limited (at best) to household chores, and are presented as useful only to the extent they fulfill the wishes of the male subjects. The GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video takes direct aim at the song both visually and with a revised set of lyrics celebrating the many capabilities of girls. Set to the tune of Girls but with a new recording of the music and new lyrics, girls are heard singing an anthem celebrating their broad set of capabilities—exactly the opposite of the message of the original”.
I don’t think anyone will dispute that the lyrics of “Girls” by the Beastie Boys are obnoxious. What upsets me is how this is turning into a boys vs. girls moment within social media with folks urging the Beastie Boys to “let it go” so we can “defend girl power.” Collectively the Beastie Boys are fathers of daughters and husbands to feminist activists. Do you honestly think they need any lessons on defending girl power by bloggers?
It might be difficult for people to remember, but the Beastie Boys are actually feminists. Jessica Valenti wrote a beautiful post chronicling Adam Yauch’s (MCA) feminist legacy. She shares how powerful it was for her when the band and MCA specifically began turning around and promoting feminist messages:
“Once you’ve realized that you’re living in a world that believes women are ‘less than’ in every imaginable way, one of the things that can be most frustrating is that very few men get it. You want the people in your life, the men you care about, to understand the awful toll it can take on you.
Jessica reminds us of the great line in the Beastie Boy song “Sure Shot” that resonated with many:
I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has to got to be through / To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect till the end
Telling the Beastie Boys to just step aside and allow a toy company to take one of their songs has nothing to do with girl power. At this very moment the Boys are in the middle of a copyright lawsuit regarding sampling within their album Paul’s Boutique. The case has been ongoing for a year and a half. I can not imagine they are looking to engage in more legal battles right now. However, I am guessing spending a year plus defending their work has them incredibly aware of which battles are worth fighting for.
The saddest part of this viral video mess is how GoldieBlox managed to completely disrespect the wishes of Adam Yauch’s will. Adam passed away from cancer in 2012. In his will, which was filed later in 2012, it was revealed that Adam’s “image, music and art are never to be licensed for advertising.”
I think it is great that a toy company has found a way to help inspire more girls to get enthusiastic about building and technology. Let’s continue this lesson and show our kids that we don’t take music and art that doesn’t belong to us.
UPDATE: November 25, 2013
The Beastie Boys are speaking up about GoldieBlox. In an open letter to the toy company the Beastie Boys, Mike D and Ad-Rock, express their surprise over finding themselves in yet another legal battle.
“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.”
There have been a lot of lively discussions about this online this weekend. What are your thoughts about GoldieBlox and Beastie Boys?
Image Credit: PR Photos, Twitter
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