Last week, the San Fransisco-based start-up GoldieBlox released a "girl power" video featuring girls building a Rube Goldberg machine to the tune of an early Beastie Boys song, but with alternate lyrics. The video was well-received ("glorious" said AdWeek) and became a viral video sensation. And then the legal shit hit the fan.
Attorneys for the Beastie Boys contacted the company about parodying the 1986 single "Girls" in an advertisement, without their permission. So Goldieblox did what any company would do to protect its (very cool) viral video: They sued preemptively, and a second wave of massive free press ensued. But now the new toy company is really sorry and has sent a letter to AdRock and Mike D, "We love you and we are actually huge fans"!
In its preemptive legal action filed last week, GoldieBlox had claimed fair use, insisting the video was parody: "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 anew 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. They are also shown engaging in activities far beyond what the Beastie Boys song would permit." For instance, the Beastie Boys song says, "Girls - to do the dishes/ Girls - to clean up my room/ Girls - to do the laundry/ Girls - and in the bathroom," while the GoldieBlox song says, "Girls - to build the spaceship/ Girls - to code the new app/ Girls - to grow up knowing/ That they can engineer that."
The Beastie Boys issued a statement on Monday, noting that while they "strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering," their music could not be used: "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." They added, "When we tried to simply ask how and why our song 'Girls' had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US."
Cut to today: Goldieblox founder Debbie Sterling is apologetic and claims they had no idea that the group felt that way advertising (even though MCA's will, highly publicized last year, was very explicit):
Dear Adam and Mike,
We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.
When we made our parody version of your song, ‘Girls’, we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to take a song we weren’t too proud of, and transform it into a powerful anthem for girls. Over the past week, parents have sent us pictures and videos of their kids singing the new lyrics with pride, building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and declaring an interest in engineering. It’s been incredible to watch.
Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.
We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours.
Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team.
We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.
Debbie + Team GoldieBlox
There's a new version of the video—without the "Girls" parody."
And GoldieBlox's toy, The Spinning Machine, is now Amazon.com's #1 selling toy. Well played, GoldieBlox, well played.