Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys have always been vocal about their refusal to license their music for TV commercials, but I’d thought they’d made an exception for the Princess Machine, a girls’ toy that puts big emphasis on engineering rather than, like, sparkles. The toy commerical used a feminist flip on the Beasties’ Licensed To Ill knucklehead anthem “Girls,” perhaps ironically bringing the song more in line with the group’s present-day politics, and it went extremely viral in the process. But no, it turns out that the toy company GoldieBox did not license “Girls,” and now the Beasties may sue the company for copyright infringement.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, last week GoldieBox preemptively filed a lawsuit making the case that the video is allowable under fair-use laws that give First Amendment protection to parodies. (That’s how 2 Live Crew got away with doing a nastified version of Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman” once upon a time.)

In a statement today, the Beasties say that they’re “impressed by the creativity and the message” of the ad, but that they still aren’t going to let it slide. Here’s their open letter:

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.

It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out, since the ad is both obviously a parody and obviously an commercial — it’s out there to sell toys, not to parody a regressive song for parody’s sake. Whatever happens, though, the song is still adorable. Observe:

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Comments (47)
  1. Yes, the band that features a member who is married to one of the world’s biggest feminists clearly should be targeted by toy makers to point out just how anti-feminist they are.

    • I feel the major point being lost here is that they are denying the rights to the song to a corporation using their parody to sell product. I have total faith they would’ve worked out a deal if it was made by a non-profit they support or something similar.

    • This is because Adam needs to be resurrected by the Germans.

      B.A.A.

      -Little Nemo
      (The Lone Rangers)

      Dream one: The Dandy Warhols

      Apart of Occupy Wall Street
      West Park Church
      Occupy Fashion
      Occupy Republican
      add<3erall
      11/29/2013
      The School of Visual Arts church of Silver tiles Day 1150/8 P.M. nirvana

  2. Reread the Hollywood Reporter article. The Beastie Boys are not the ones who filed the suit. Goldieblox filed the suit. There is one lawsuit– Scribd: Case3:13-cv-05428– and Goldieblox filed it.

    • GoldieBlox did file that suit. But they’re not the suing The Beastie Boys as they claim. The Beastie Boys threatened to sue and GoldieBlox have filed for declaratory judgement. If GoldieBlox win it means the Beasties can’t sue them. It’s pretty common when someone is threatened with a lawsuit.

  3. I was wondering how GoldieBlox got permission to use the song since the Beasties are so known for not licensing. As much as I think the message of GoldieBlox is a good one, there are so many problems with the execution (typical feminine colors like pink, use of a white blond girl as the mascot) that I can’t defend them. Yes, they’ll probably get away with it as parody, but honestly they’re just being disrespectful. Even Weird Al asks permission first.

    • The use of pink is explicitly addressed in the song.

      • they’ve been marketing the toys as the alternative to typical girly, pink toys and yet they still have pink in them. I get that pink shouldn’t be feminine or masculine, but explicitly using it in your toys when you say you’re not making “girly” things is a little against what you stand for.

        • I’m hesitant to respond because it looks like you’re trolling. But, as a father to two little girls, maybe I can explain…

          There is no shortage of building kits and science-based toys in colors like green, red and blue. They are typically targeted to boys. Say what you will about the color pink, but little girls love it. They just do. I am sure there are exceptions, but I have raised my girls on punk rock and sports and they still love pink. They would rather have a pink science kit with rainbows and unicorns on it. I think that is fine. There is nothing wrong with that.

          I am not sure why you take issue with a blond girl as their mascot. Do you hate blond girls? They are called GoldieBlox for Pete’s sake. Are we supposed to hate blond people now? Their calling is to make more girl-friendly educational toys: science, math, etc. Their calling isn’t to have the most socially-conscious mascot. If anything, I take the most offense to the intentional misspelling of the word blocks.

          Anyway… do you have any kids?

  4. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • The point is that the BB don’t want their music being used to sell products and make money for someone else… it doesn’t really seem to be a loss-of-revenue trend of thinking.

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      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • So you’re saying anyone should be able to use anyone else’s creative works in any way they see fit? Because it isn’t a limited physical object?

          Artists need protections against misuse. While the attitude and “moral” of the commercial might be empowering, it’s still using someone else’s creative work in an unapproved way for personal commercial gain. That is exactly the kind of thing creative copyrights exist to stop.

          • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • @Rio Bravo

            You sound ignorant to the ways creative works are copyrighted. It has nothing to do with “depriving” anyone of anything and entirely of being in control of the works you put out in the world. There is a huge difference between physical property and intellectual property and you’re using the justifications behind the former to justify breaking the rules of the latter.

            It isn’t about the Beastie Boys losing profit, it’s about the Beastie Boys not agreeing with the use of their music in this way, and the defending company trying to paint it in the light of parody (which is, in my opinion, legit.) Again, you’re confusing theft of a physical object and theft of an intellectual property.

        • I think we can wear the same shirt.

    • While I wouldn’t purport to be an intellectual property expert, I don’t think that’s a fair way to frame the issue. Copyright laws, patent laws, etc. exist to ensure that artists, scientists and other creators have the ability to both profit off of their ideas and possess some semblance of control over how those ideas are used. It’s not about managing scarcity, it’s about providing an incentive for creation that would likely be diminished if creators were not allowed to have some sort of vested interest in their work.

      I don’t agree with a lot of copyright laws in the United States, and it’s always a bummer when some artist or record label comes down on a creatively brilliant mash-up or re-appropriation or whatever. But I think it’s fair if an artist doesn’t want their work to be used to advance a commercial, ideological or political cause they aren’t down with. If the Beastie Boys don’t want their stuff used in commercials, period, I have to think that’s fair.

      • But copyright isn’t a blanket right. It seems like GoldieBlox have a reasonable fair use claim. Parody and comment are protected under fair use. And pointing out how misogynistic the original version of this song is seems like fair comment.

        • I think that’s fair, and that’s probably why it’s the foot GoldieBlox stepped out on. But as steadyriot stated further down in the comments, your claim of parody and social commentary is undercut when your end result pretty closely resembles the common practice of using popular songs to sell products, even if the song’s lyrics are modified.

          • @ Derrick Rasmussen

            //I’m confused by your argument. Nothing about copyright law guarantees you have a “right to profit PER SE.”//

            Copyright laws are designed to protect the profits of people who create ideas and attempt to sell products that are based on those ideas. These laws are based, partly, on the notion that the creator of the idea is entitled to a certain level of profit that would otherwise be lower if others were allowed to use the idea.

      • @Derrick Rasmussen

        //Copyright laws, patent laws, etc. exist to ensure that artists, scientists and other creators have the ability to both profit off of their ideas and possess some semblance of control over how those ideas are used.//

        Intellectual “property” is a backward, antiquated idea that needs to be dispensed with. No has a right to profit PER SE. People have a right to PURSUE profit. If I had a right to profit, then I could demand that people come and shop in my store and they would be forced to comply. Similarly, no one has a right to sex per se. They have a right to PURSUE sex, and if they find someone who consents, then they can engage in intercourse. Whereas if they had a right to sex per se, then they would be entitled to rape people.

        //It’s not about managing scarcity, it’s about providing an incentive for creation that would likely be diminished if creators were not allowed to have some sort of vested interest in their work.//

        Now we’re moving away from property rights and getting into the utilitarian considerations. It’s true that recording artists will be effected if copyright is abolished. They may need to change their business model and focus more on live performances (which is where they make more money anyway). Or maybe they develop a loyal fanbase who are willing to purchase their records even though they have access to free copies.

        • I’m confused by your argument. Nothing about copyright law guarantees you have a “right to profit PER SE.” You have a right to profit if people use your ideas. If people don’t want to pay you, they are by no means obligated to use your creations.

          • Rio isn’t really concerned with copyright law as it is, they are more concerned with their ideas on what intellectual property should be, as they see it. I’m a professional photographer, and IP law is what keeps that industry running, as a legitimate way for us to make an honest living. Their main confusion is this notion that IP law somehow makes abstract “ideas” proprietary, which it doesn’t. It makes a certain communicable manifestation (a constructed product, a specific design of a product, written words, lines in sequence, music) of ideas proprietary.

            “Maybe they develop a loyal fanbase who are willing to purchase their records even though they have access to free copies.” Translate that into any other industry, and you see the insanity of it: “Maybe Toyota should convince people to buy their cars out of loyalty as opposed to just stealing cars out of the lot of the dealership.”

    • Shut up, dude.

  5. Beasties, oddly enough (and lifelong fan here), can be weird about copyright laws and infringements and will gauge money out whenever they can. It probably stems as some sort of retribution from all the law suits back in the late 80s and early 90s, although it’s still ironic from a band that got famous ripping off Jimmy Page riffs. And yes I know Jimmy Page ripped those off too. Still, the Beasties can be a bit greedy at times.

    • “Still, the Beasties can be a bit greedy at times.”

      You would think NOT licensing your songs for commercials would be the OPPOSITE of greedy.

      Once upon a time, using your songs in commercials was considered selling out (R.I.P. Bill Hicks). Of course, that time is LONG behind us. Props to the Beasties for sticking to their guns even when its difficult.

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        • Also Adam Yauch’s will stating that they not use songs for commercial purposes has a lot to do with this. That said, that decision was relatively recent.

        • The Beastie Boys don’t owe anyone sh!t for how they acted. It’s part of life. You do stupid things when you’re young. The have more then made it up for it over over the years. Listen to their lyrics and you will actually know what you are talking about, instead of spouting off nonsense.

          • AdRock is one of the richest musicians in the word with a net worth of $75 million. Believe me, he worked for it and he deserves it, but to pretend like he isn’t in it for the money (which he has admitted to – more so than Mike D). So why are they not selling to commercials? Probably because they couldn’t agree on who to sell what to – or maybe it was Adam Yauch’s last wish? Still think it’s hypocritical coming from a group who sampled so heavily (and brilliantly).

        • Show me the quote, because I’m seeing a total lack of logic here.

          • Do you need to see a quote? They just sold the rights to use Sabotage on How I Met Your Mother this fall, but somehow this tiny start up is not OK

    • Greedy, really? They don’t want their music to be used to sell items for a large corporation, and you call them greedy?

  6. How can they say the video is ‘social commentary’ or whatever when the overall message is “BUY OUR SHIT”

    its a shame cause the product does seem to bring positivity into the world, but the bottom line is they are using the beastie’s song (and creative property) to profit

  7. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Most countries only offer intellectual property rights for a limited amount of time before the works enter the public domain. My major quibble with US copyright laws is that those periods are far too prolonged (and considering the song in question is nearly 30 years old, it’s something to think about), but that’s a different argument for a different day. And the “nobody should have a right to note configurations” is a more relevant argument when we’re talking Coldplay vs. Joe Satriani or something similar. GoldieBlox is pretty obviously evoking a very specific song here.

      And frankly, I don’t really have any problem with a “dude invents wheel, dude gets X amount of years to do with wheel as he/she sees fit, then it’s open season for all would-be wheel-makers” scenario, so long as that time period isn’t for an untenable period of time . So I guess that’s where you and I fundamentally disagree.

      • //And frankly, I don’t really have any problem with a “dude invents wheel, dude gets X amount of years to do with wheel as he/she sees fit, then it’s open season for all would-be wheel-makers” scenario, so long as that time period isn’t for an untenable period of time . So I guess that’s where you and I fundamentally disagree.//

        Interesting. Advocates of intellectual property often make the claim that patents are good for the economy because they supposedly incentivize people to invent new things. But in the case of the wheel, we can clearly see that a wheel patent would disastrous for the economy. Imagine if there was only 1 firm producing wheels–thus no downward pressure on prices and no upward pressure on quality.

    • The Surgarhill Gang example wouldn’t work – copyright protects a particular expression of an idea, but not the idea itself. So, you can’t claim protected authorship of an entire genre. The law functions this way because we want to incentivize creation, but not stifle it at the same time.

      As for the wheel, I’d note only that patent protection benefits society in ways beyond incentivizing innovation. For one, when you publish a patent, you disclose the idea to the world at large – and we wouldn’t want people inventing useful things like wheels and then just keeping it a secret, right? Also, once the patent is published the clock starts ticking insofar as the creator’s exclusivity goes, so that in turn creates a big push to commercialize whatever it is we’re talking about, to get it out there in the marketplace. So in your example, perhaps we would end up spending 20 years with one party having exclusive control over wheel manufacturing (that doesn’t mean, however, that he couldn’t authorize others to produce), but the trade-off would be that a hugely helpful innovation is unleashed upon the world.

      • Thank you, Ben. I was starting to get worried that I was going to have to type something lengthy.

      • @ Ben Cornell

        Sure. I didn’t mean for the Sugarhill Gang example to be an example of copyright, just an illustration of intellectual property in general—claiming ownership over an abstraction and then attempting to curtail other people’s behavior based on that claimed ownership.

        Re: the wheel and patents — there are a few issues here. After the patent is obtained, what is the magic number of years before it should expire? 20 years? 37 years? 61 years? It seems a bit arbitrary to me. I want to repeat this point because I think it is crucial to any discussion of IP: when one establishes ownership over some intellectual property, he is in effect attempting to control the behavior of other people. And when it comes to controlling other people’s behavior, we are treading on delicate ground and need to be very careful. Maybe it can be justified in certain cases, but the issue shouldn’t be taken lightly.

        As for utilitarian considerations — I don’t buy the assumption that patents nurture innovation and economic advancement. I think that sloppy thinking has caused people to take this idea for granted, and I did too for a long time. Here’s the thing: inventors and creators are constantly building upon the work of innovators who came before them and the work of their contemporaries too. It’s a dynamic process of studying others’ work, comparing it to your own, making tweaks and improvements, synthesizing and moving toward the next great invention. Patents hamper this process by placing shackles on creative people and telling them, “You may not do X.”

  8. “During the VIBE interview, Mike D was asked about any possible hesitation he or the band might have had regarding their overt ‘sampling’ of several minutes of well-known Beatles background tracks, including the song “The End” on ‘The Sounds of Science’. He claimed that the Beatles filed preliminary legal papers, and that his response was ‘What’s cooler than getting sued by the Beatles?’”

    Maybe getting sued by the Beasties is.

  9. There’s a part in the new Kathleen Hanna documentary where she comments on how its crazy how she’s married to the guy that sang “Girls do my laundry.”

    How much money do you wanna bet the people behind this ad saw this movie and a few lazy connections in their brain later came up with it?

    “They’ll totally let us use this, they’re feminists!”

    Shit is insulting.

  10. The ad irritates me, actually–there’s something about it that rings fake.

    It’s an ad made by adults for adults, and in addition to relying on its adult audience’s knowledge of the Beastie Boys, it uses the little girls’ physical cuteness to at worst sell–and at best help push–their message. How is that different from using any girl’s beauty to sell clothing or perfume?

    Adults deploying satire–which is not something children of the age in the commercial are capable of understanding–and using little girls’ physical cuteness to get an adult message across just seems –well, like advertising. The supposed message that girls should be supported and empowered to pursue interests in technology and science is facetious because it is delivered via the same strategy that traditional advertising has always used–connecting attractive images of females to bolster a message. The Beastie Boys are absolutely right to sue and to preserve their control of the use of their music.

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