GoldieBlox learns a lesson in engineering bad PR

What a nice way to wake up this morning. After Goldieblox received a redonk amount of unwanted PR for infringing upon the Beastie Boys and Queen (and Lonely Island, in their now deleted "I'm on a Goat," parody video) the Goldieblox people have taken down the Beasties song and written their own open letter/ non-apology/product description to the Beasties.

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

BWAHAHAHAHAHA. You notice how "We're sorry," wasn't ever uttered.

These people and their shit toys, need to take a time out.

The so-called engineer (who to the best of my knowledge has never actually worked in engineering but only PR/marketing) can't even get off the talking point train in an apology letter. Jiminy Christmas, give the brand attributes a rest already.

You were completely unaware that Adam Yauch didn't want his songs licensed, and as unaware that "Girls" was a satirical song. Guess what? You should have asked for permission either way. Same with Queen, same with Lonely Island, same with any other content creator you plan on ripping off, as it seems that is your entire marketing MO.

And it still doesn't matter that you removed the song from the video. You still did it.

See, this is what Big Data has wrought. The "shut up and dance, and " all your content are belong to us" has become the part of the belief system.

And it can only come from rich white elitists, self-righteous, and secure in the knowledge that they have rationalized infringement six ways till Sunday, and all the while, ripping someone else off for their own material gain. Meet the old boss, same as the new boss.

If there is any justice they will be disqualified from the Intuit competition, but justice is hard to come by these days.

Same with the words "We're sorry."

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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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Nick McGivney's picture

Yes, yes and yes. But then whuttt? Rich white elitists??It can only come from rich white elitists? Really? Bit of a swerve there. I fell off the agree train.

kidsleepy's picture

I'll explain it then, and see if you come back on the train.

If you don't like the word racism, substitute it with imperialism, or colonialism. But it's the same thing. One elite power asserting its will over another.

It's either a group of elitists who don't want to pay for content, in the case of GoldieBlox, or it's the cloud storage owners of Big Data who want all information to be free-- including the information created by people in developing nations, African Americans, and those who by and large cann't afford to give their content away but find they have no choice.

Big Data, Big Tech, and Torrent sites are by and large owned and run by white males who understand whoever owns content is king. By and large they do not create content, themselves. They store it and distribute it. This is how Kim Dot Com became a billionaire. There is very little diversity in this group of content storage owners. It's the same as in advertising. It's not the world of Benetton. And this is a crying a shame.

But think about it for a second:

Who are the ones perpetuating the "information should be free," mantra? The group of people who can most afford to buy it.

Again, they don't see infringement as a problem because they don't create content. Their livelihood isn't dependent upon someone actually buying it. Instead they tell the content creators to "sell t-shirts," at the merch table or "find another job and adjust to our business model." This case happens to be the Beastie Boys and you may well argue they can "afford to give up their music." Yeah they can, but should they is the larger question.

Now tell me, what if instead, we substituted the Beasties with say, an unknown but aspiring African American musician, struggling to get by, or a group of aboriginal singers in a developing nation. Do they have the luxury to adapt to the "information should be free" business model? Of course not.

To fit Spotify's business model means you accept a terms of service that makes content creators broke, and content storage owners rich. How many struggling musicians and artists around the world can do this? Certainly not ones coming from backgrounds that are different from Northern California.

Remember, most of the these music streaming business models (let alone big tech models in general) aren't yet financially effective. Spotify is not an effective business model; it stays solvent by paying out much less to the people who create the content. And content creators have no choice but to to go along with this.

Racism, imperialism, colonialism of content. Choose your word, but either way its' still oppression.

fairuse's picture

Don't the labels pretty much own Spotify now? I was told that. I don't care because Spotify is not my problem.

As for Goldieblox and the whole flatlined interactive book -- you got what you wished for. Now pickup your toys and study. Science and engineering lesson to you is it's ok to fail and it's good to learn that early. Take the example of WD-40; it took 39 fails and on the 40th a product was born. It's these little bits of code little girls need, not more pink.

Society has an elastic property that resists change. This by Anxious Machine shows us that resistance; Her daughter stated,

"I don't need to know math, because I'm going to grow up to be a supermodel," my brain nearly melted out of my ears. I spent the next thirty minutes (or so) half-ranting, half-explaining to her how she has to fight against a culture that believes the most important thing about a girl is being pretty.

I just stared at that paragraph and thought, "That would have given me a heart attack".

Since I am not a total jerk I think Goldieblox can fight against the "pink princess supermodel Cosmopolitan Vogue People messages", once the marketing folks take off their Grifter Pink hair bow and design real toys like, maybe, one that has beams, girders, electric motors, nuts & bolts, and directions that say build a Rube Goldberg contraption. Easy Peasy Goldieblox - I gave mine to my sisters.

Nick McGivney's picture

It's not that I don't like the word racism. I think it's just a label, and at times it gets stretched pretty thin to cover all sorts of things that people just don't like about other people.

It's not always the right word, and I don't think it's the right word here either. These things do matter if a logical and rational argument is to happen. Otherwise we're not arguing about the same thing. We seem to be talking about theft, unless I'm mistaken. You can argue that colonialism is theft, yes, and there may be aspects of racism to that, but you can't flip it and say that theft is colonialism, or racism.

To me it doesn't matter if it's the Beastie Boys getting ripped off, or an unknown talent who happens to be African American. It's the being ripped off part I have the problem with. And I don't think the people doing the ripping off give a damn what colour they're ripping off, just as long as it's green.

That's my take. Peace and respect. (And credit and $ where it's due.)

kidsleepy's picture

The thing is, the person who created GoldieBlox is herself a marketer. She saw the 'girl power' opportunity and ran with it. Can't blame them for trying.

The tactic of "girls love narrative play," however, is backfiring as much as any goodwill they lost vis a vis the Beasties. Feminists are upset about it, 'geeks' are upset about it, and people who are pro-content are upset, too.

Spotify is in part owned by record labels, yes. They don't give a toss about making Spotify solvent, nor do they care about the artists on their roster. They're just looking out for their own best interests as always. Robber Barons 4 Eva

John E. Bredehoft's picture

Legally, GoldieBlox probably could have prevailed in a court of law - the Naked Gun 33 1/3 case provides ample precedent for commercial parody commenting on the original work.

The court of public opinion, however, is a whole other thing entirely.

kidsleepy's picture

We're all familiar with Campbell VS. Acuff-Rose because everyone has been quoting from it. They are however, leaving out a crucial sentence from the decision: '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'.

Meaning, that case set a precedent but the decision was not without qualifiers.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Campbell v.s. Acuff-Rose is quoted and sets a precedent but the application of that precedent most relevant (and easily researched) is Leibovitz v.s. Paramount Pictures. The parody in the latter case is an advertisement, is not directly for sale, yet was decided to be within the realms of fair use.

Dabitch's picture

Did we link to their site anywhere in these posts? Because Techdirt found that Goldieblox thinks you need a license to link to their website. This is comedy gold, people! They should get new legal advisors. Fer shuriken.

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.

Dabitch's picture

Overall, the reporting on this was shoddy from the very beginning.

Take this for example - reading it there's no indication that the reporter did anything other than read Sterlings open letter. "The company also plans to withdraw" is an interpretation of "we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team."

and that interpretation turned into headline: "Goldieblox ENDS LAWSUIT" over at AP written USA today article.

What's lacking here is both proof that Beastie Boys ever threatened them, and proof the lawsuit Goldieblox filed has been withdrawn.

Dabitch's picture

I like how so many people think Goldieblox has stopped the lawsuit, when their open letter states that they haven't.

In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit .... means that they haven't stopped the lawsuit yet. You hear that USA TODAY?