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Goldieblox : ' Gotta fight, for your right, to infringe'

Really important update:
"A representative for the Beastie Boys explained to Huffpo: "There was no complaint filed, no demand letter (no demand, for that matter) when [GoldieBlox] sued Beastie Boys."
We suspected as much when there was no letter or complaint attached to the preemptive lawsuit filed by Goldieblox that we linked in the article. This has been a lesson in earned media skillfully arranged.

Last week Goldieblox made a big splash on the internet with their Rube Goldberg style gizmo in their commercial which depicted bored girls who decided to build a "Der lauf der dinge", or a HONDA "Cog" style machine out of ordinary household things, set to the tune of Beastie Boys "Girls", but with new lyrics. The creative engineer who built the contraption in OK Go's "This too shall pass", Brett Doar, spent 2 1/2 weeks building the gadget in the Goldieblox ad.

Goldieblox isn't just a pink board with holes in it, some spools and some ribbon. There's a story too, as little girls apparently like "narrative play", and follow along on an adventure with the character helping her along the way by solving little engineering problems with these spools and ribbons to get to the next step. A bit like a book combined with the old board game mouse trap that fascinated me as a wee lass.
Upworthy sent the ad to viraldom, and Goldiblox are hoping to win a slot advertising during the super bowl with this advert. On youtube the ad, titled "GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg, & Beastie Boys "Princess Machine"', has already reached seven million views.

The woman behind Goldieblox, Debbie Sterling, has a past career in marketing as a brand strategist, and is clearly using her skills in launching her toy, so well adapted to take the obvious hole in the market for "pink engineer toys". Her now husband Beau Lewis who made "I want a goat" viral for charity has joined the company as VP of marketing. With this kind of talent, it was bound to take the Viral parts of the social internet by storm, and it did. Who can resist a weird domino-effect machine and Beastie Boys song? It doesn't matter if there's a slight disconnect when the girls sing they don't want pink, while this actually advertises a pink product, the magic of Rube Goldberg machines is that we can't help but watch them.

Academy creative reveal that the song seemingly arrived while they were in post production: "And we would add key details in Post: Beau’s inspired re-writing of an old, misogynistic Beastie Boys tune, “Girls” would add narrative drive as we assembled the piece, and our resident geniuses at Pico Sound would augment the action with chain-reactive sound design." They seem to have forgotten the vital step where they negotiate rights to use the music.

Or did they? While the advert is now making the second round due to headlines saying that Beastie Boys are filing suit, the only filed suit I can find is a the preemptive lawsuit filed by Goldieblox in California federal court to seek a declaration that the use of the Beastie Boys song with the changed lyrics was parody subject to fair use. That's right, Goldieblox are suing Beastie Boys, not the other way around.
This practically ensures that we'll read it about it all of next week as well, as the Streisand effect will work on Goldieblox favor. (C'mon now, sing "Balls! You know she has them, she's got balls!" to the tune of Beastie Boys "Girls"). And it's not like the dream husband and wife team of Goldieblox haven't done this before, remember Beau Lewis parodied Andy Samberg’s comedy group hit “I’m on a Boat.” and that went well. Question: Is it really a parody when you're simply taking someone elses song, and adding text about your product as lyrics instead? Is it still a parody when you've missed the point of the original songs lyrics? "Girls" is a parody of Machismo rap. It's like parody-inception, here.

It's well known that Adam Yauch's will says no to Beastie Boys songs in advertising, so there's disrespecting the last wishes of a dead guy on top of infringing someone elses art for the sake of shilling some yellow spools and pink ribbon. This dream product that went from brunch-idea, to kickstart-funded after a friend at Upworthy seeded it, is now one of four finalists in the running for a free spot at the super bowl. If Goldieblox' win that, they could easily become girl-toy of the year 2014. Welcome to the future, where you get money for nothing and music for free.

Update again: Beastie Boys open letter to Goldieblox: YOU sued US (Why?)
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

There's been some interesting 140-char comments on twitter about this. If anyone cares to try the comment box here, I'd just like to emphasise that the lawsuit brought by Goldieblox is the source for the "Beastie boys threatened us" story. See the text of Goldieblox suit that I've linked in the post. Repeat: The only source I can find for this threat is from Goldieblox' lawsuit - which TELLINGLY doesn't include any letter or threat from Beastie Boys - if you know more please share.
"In response to this criticism, the Beastie Boys have now threatened GoldieBlox with copyright infringement. Lawyers for the Beastie Boys claim that the GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video is a copyright infringement, is not a fair use, and that GoldieBlox’s unauthorized use of the Beastie Boys intellectual property is a “big problem” that has a “very significant impact” ."

As for the parody defense, I have difficulty seeing the Goldieblox song about "building spaceships" and not wanting pink toys to be a proper parody of the Bestie Boys "Girls" song, which is so clearly a sendup/satire of how insecure guys react to being shunned by pretty girls. I'm not even sure how one parodies a satirical song in the first place, but I'm digressing here. Goldieblox are selling stuff, not doing a PSA or raising money for . Goldieblox uploaded the video to Youtube with Beastie Boys name in the title, clearly positioning their 3-minute advert with Beastie Boys as part of the draw. The "I'm going to use your work and not pay you or ask permission" to sell stuff and make money, is underhanded and slimy, even if you happen to agree that girls should have smart (pink!) toys. What's worse is ; Beau Lewis has done this type of parody without permission before, and Sterling who has been director of marketing and brand strategist should by professional skills alone know better. If they didn't, then at least Academy Creative should have known. I refuse to believe it was never brought up - I think this was exactly as intended, and if the buzz continues they'll get that free super bowl ad, since everyone and their uncle are rah-rah:ing about this on various tumblr's etc. See for example this post at It's OKAY to be Smart tumblr.

@JLVernonPhD @bigmeancarmen @JulianLives Doesn’t really matter what he willed IMO. It’s a parody, and not their music. It’s derivative.

— Joe Hanson (@jtotheizzoe) November 25, 2013

fairuse's picture

Using my jump-right-in-unbiased-opinion method. I watched the video. I think it is far better than most of the ones I suffer through on channels like Hub and Nickelodeon. For a better understanding of the issue I played sample on Amazon MP3 -- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001NZCF36/?tag=you09f-20 and decided I didn't need to buy the song. Yep, the sample was enough match.

1. Apply rules using -- http://www.usg.edu/images/copyright_docs/fair_use_checklist.pdf

1.1 Factor 1: Purpose and Character of the Use -- In Favor of: 0 Against: 3 (Commercial activity, public distribution, Entertainment)

1.2 Factor 2: Nature of Copyrighted Work -- (note: This applies to written works although it could be applied to lyrics.) Published music mashup may apply but "for profit" renders that moot.

1.3 Factor 3: Amount and Substantiality of Portion Used -- For this test the the portion used is all. The ad song is the exact song with different lyrics.

1.4 Factor 4: Effect on Market for Original -- In Favor: 1 (May stimulate market for original work) Against: 2 (User does not own, Large or entire wrk used)

Conclusion: Written permission from the owner to use song with different lyrics in an advertisement. Since advertisement is not for school classroom products there is no fairuse; the toys shown are educational but are not part of an institution's curriculum.

I could be wrong. WHATEVER!


Dabitch's picture

In this post: "The Trouble with GoldieBlox" the author Michelle Loyen lists her (and my) reasons she doesn't find a pink gendered toy to be a universally good thing™. I say mine too, as she has perfectly articulated why I kick puppies. Bonus! She also gives a list of alternative, non-gendered toy suggestions to try and get girls interested in engineering instead of buying Goldieblox.

So the first part is simple: the reasons why I dislike the idea of a gendered building set being pushed at little girls, complete with pastel colours and puppies. (Again with the puppies! Who knew a post about engineering toys would involve so many puppies?) A key theme on their website that of course girls are different than boys and need different toys–their claim is that girls do not like to build without a narrative story. I’ve never seen any evidence for this myself, and the classic pre-pinkification ads from the 70s when I was a budding engineer seem more like it to me. But hey, this is exactly the crux of the problem. Kids are different, and not just in a simple boy-girl dichotomy. The “likes a narrative story” vs “doesn’t need a narrative story” divide need not be along girl-boy lines. So my first problem with GoldieBlox is that it reinforces the idea that girls are different and need different toys. I just don’t buy it, nor do a number of campaigners with highly visible de-gendering campaigns.


Mark Burginger's picture

As a student of graphic arts & advertising at SJSU, I can't tell you how happy I am to see that not everybody is fooled by this type of ad tactic. How about poor little GoldieLocks? Has she been infringed too?

fairuse's picture

Is that private video the one I think it is? GoldieBlox commercial rewrites the Beastie Boys, urges young girls to pursue engineering, is fabulous DOT something (34.60 MB)

Sean PK's picture

Whatever happened to this company and lawsuit?