Goldieblox: erasing the line between "disruptive" and "douchebaggery"

The dust hadn't settled yet from when Goldieblox declared "you gotta fight for your right to infringe" last week - and now Goldieblox have issued a non-apology for infringing Beastie Boys song.

Yesterday Felix Simon joined in opining in GoldieBlox, fair use, and the cult of disruption. Disruption? Yes, we all know that to get angel funders to throw money at you as if you're the last stripper in town, you have to promise disruption. Disruption is changing the status quo by blowing up an old market, and in the new market created a land rush like Oklahoma takes place. Forget those who were on the land before, they need to adapt. Most of all, disruption is really close to douchebaggery if you're not careful. Creating a keyboardless phone that is just a screen in a market full of indestructible Nokias is proper disruption. Picking fights just to get attention is destruction.

But attention in the attention economy is smart marketing. Or so they might have thought - the old adage nothing unsells a bad product faster than good advertising has proven itself again, as people all over and feminist engineers in particular have picked the toy and its concept apart. You know. For science.
Pre 1980s, we grew up on gender-neutral lego and the ads (above) showed us that only our imagination was the limit. To sell new toys today, you have to have a brand bigger than the blox actually used, and so Goldieblox became all girl-power fluff and very little toy. Meanwhile real construction toys like Qubitz aren't seen because attention is a limited resource.

Felix notices that "parodying" the song, and then filing a preemptive lawsuit seems like a plan.

This is faux-naïveté at its worst, deliberately ignoring the fact that Girls, the original song, is itself a parody of machismo rap. The complaint is also look-at-me move, positively daring the Beasties to rise to the bait and enjoin the fight. Which the Beasties, in turn, are trying very hard not to do. In their letter to GoldieBlox, the Beasties make three simple points. They support the creativity of the video, and its message; they’re the defendants in this suit, rather than the people suing anybody; and, most importantly, they have a long-standing policy that no Beastie Boys songs shall ever be used in commercial advertisements. (They don’t mention, although they could, that this last was actually an explicit dying wish of Adam Yauch, a/k/a MCA, and an integral part of his will.)
Given the speed with which the GoldieBlox complaint appeared, indeed, it’s reasonable to assume that they had it in their back pocket all along, ready to whip out the minute anybody from the Beastie Boys, or their record label, so much as inquired about what was going on. The strategy here is to maximize ill-will: don’t ask permission, make no attempt to negotiate in good faith, antagonize the other party as much as possible.

There's no such thing as bad press, they say, as long as they get your name right. Lets hope Goldieblox viral advertising plans aren't ruined by all the attention... oh, wait...... Meanwhile spurred on by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Techdirt the entire internet turned into armchair lawyers quoting Campbell vs Acuff-Rose. But they were missing the line 'the use of a copyrighted work to advertise a product, even in a parody, will be entitled to less indulgence' under the law than 'the sale of a parody for its own sake'., and kept hollering about "fair use" at the top of their lungs.

I'd like to look beyond the dust for a bit.

It takes a special kind of hubris to so sincerely believe that rules are there to be broken and that controversy can be tamed to sell [product]. It's advertising hubris. Or at least a Stanfordized version of it. Culture Jamming is the new black, and it'll ship units. We've invented sharing economy and crowdsourcing, a Spotify streaming library of music, all the worlds films at your fingertips and so many great things. It has of course all been built on the principle "take first, ask later", so why not advertise the same way? Who needs to ask permission for anyone elses work when they can feed themselves with the attention they'll get. "The [insert popular bad guy] will get the money anyway", people parrot, forgetting that there is no money, except the large chunks funneled into very few peoples pockets. Crowdsourcing designers are churning out cheap logos in Vietnam, working in shifts. Musicians are making pennies for millions of listens, and live in their cars. Journalists write for exposure. Meanwhile in San Francisco, the tech-elite pay for their fair trade latte made on the street where they live in a $3800 one bedroom apartment with a view of the Mission Dolores.

Successful kickstarter campaigns build new companies and launch world tours - for Amanda Palmer, but not for Bootsy Collins. Amanda shared her sudden wealth in a tasty compensation package to musicians who played with her on tour: "[I'll] feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily." The money that flowed to the top did not trickle down to the musicians at the bottom - and in Bootsy's case where he needed money precisely because he was going to pay the backing band, he got none. Tech names are now shifting how they're perceived as Bittorrent are advertising to change their 'brand' from being synonymous with 'pirating music, films and software' to 'NSA-fighting privacy control and musicians gratis distribution network'. Why? They've disrupted a market, and now they want to claim their piece of Oklahoma in the land rush that followed.

Hmm... I'm noticing a trend here...

The scrappy Goldieblox was hoping to muscle in to the pink aisle of national toy stores, without paying their dues (or indeed paying for licensing). The Google-backed Uber who is muscling in to cities all over the world bypassing established, and costly, taxi regulation. AirB&B figures the whole "tax" thing didn't apply to them. Where did such entitlement begin? Facebook Twitter et al are rather famously not paying taxes when they can avoid it. Taxes that would pay for public schools, public roads et al. Schools that could potentially foster the next generation of girl geeks & engineers, if they weren't near bankruptcy. Making lots of money is really easy when you don't pay your dues, taxes, for content, or even those working for you along the way. Meet the new robber barons and snake oil salesmen. They seem rather familiar.

(Footnote: we've been linking this "I'm on a goat" video for days to show how Goldieblox company has a history of making 'parody' videos based on other peoples songs, but it's now been removed from public view on youtube. You can still see it on Dailymotion.)
The Goldiebloxgate on Adland.
1 Goldieblox : ' Gotta fight, for your right, to infringe' 23 November (Dabitch)
2 Beastie Boys open letter to Goldieblox: YOU sued US (Why?) 25 November (Dabitch)
3 Forget about Beastie Boys. Did GoldieBlox's infringement break Intuit competition rules? 25 November (Kidsleepy)
4 GoldieBlox learns a lesson in engineering bad PR 27. November (Kidsleepy)
5 Goldieblox: erasing the line between "disruptive" and "douchebaggery" 27. November (Dabitch)
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Dabitch's picture

Goldieblox terms of service on their website says you need a license to link to their website. You can't make this stuff up, people.

16. LINKS BY YOU TO THE WEBSITE . We grant you a limited, non-exclusive, revocable, non-assignable, personal, and non-transferable license to create hyperlinks to the Website, so long as: (a) the links only incorporate text, and do not use any trademark graphics that are owned or licensed to GoldieBlox, (b) the links and the content on your website do not suggest any affiliation with GoldieBlox or cause any other confusion, and (c) the links and the content on your website do not portray GoldieBlox or its products or services in a false, misleading, derogatory, or otherwise offensive matter, and do not contain content that is inappropriate for children or that is unlawful, offensive, obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, violent, threatening, harassing, or abusive, or that violate any right of any third party or are otherwise objectionable to GoldieBlox. GoldieBlox reserves the right to suspend or prohibit linking to the Website for any reason, in its sole discretion, without advance notice or any liability of any kind to you or any third party.

Really? They will stop us from linking them? My name is Dabitch, I bet your lawyers thinks that's obscene. Lets have that C&D sent over asap, please.

AnonymousCowards's picture

I'm sure they made more money on the video than the product which is getting terrible reviews on Amazon. You're right about the unselling that a great ad can do, see Goldieblox and the one star reviews.

kidsleepy's picture

Here's the thing, PSY supposedly made $837,000 on his youtube views. Now, that sounds like a lot but consider his video had to be viewed a BILLION times before he saw that kind of money. 7 million views isn't going to bring in that much.
Also it is a big assumption that those views were organic. If these people have no qualms about infringing upon artists, they probably have no qualms about buying youtube views to make themselves look more important than they are. I haven't really seen any article talk about that, though. Perhaps because either no one knows about the practice of paid impressions, or it's a dirty little secret that everyone knows but no one talks about.

Dabitch's picture

Well, first - buying youtube views is a dirty little secret that we all know about in advertising and everyone pretends it doesn't happen because ShhhH!! ;)

Second, if we're pretending the bought views didn't happen, Mashable did the math on how much this commercial for Goldieblox can have made in their post.

Still, GoldieBlox appears to have benefited from using the song without permission. Before the company pulled the first version of the ad, it had racked up 9 million views. While it's hard to say what the value is of such a viral video, a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on ad revenues from the song Gangnam Style (about $1.7 million for 1 billion views) reveals that the figure is around $156,000. Assuming a similar arrangement (with Google getting about half the ad dollars), GoldieBlox should make about $78,000 in ad revenues from the viral ad.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Whoever did the math on that REALLY doesn't know what they are doing with simple algebra. 1.7 million for a billion views is $1,700 per million, so in all actuality the ad revenue for the video with 9 million views is $15,600. Take out Google's cut and they net just under 8 grand.

This is much more in line with what I have experienced with videos produced for distribution on youtube, where my crew gets approximately $1000 per million views. That's also only of they are Youtube partners and have ads turned on for their channel.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

Whatever happened to this company?

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