Beastie Boys, Girls’ Toys and Copyright

A video that encourages girls to forgo princesses and pink for toolkits and hardhats has gone viral since it was posted last Monday - and is now at the centre of a legal battle over copyright.

The video, made by toy company GoldieBlox (without an advertising agency) and aired only on YouTube, parodies the Beastie Boys 1986 hit ‘Girls’, changing the lyrics to turn the song’s antifeminist message (which the band has long since distanced itself from) on its head.

The changes include substituting the Beasties' ode to women as domestic slaves (‘Girls … to do the dishes / Girls … to clean up my room’) to the progressive (‘Girls … to build the spaceship / Girls … to code the new app’).

Reportedly, the band’s lawyers contacted GoldieBlox, accusing them of copyright infringement and asking why they had used the song without seeking permission.

Goldieblox responded with a pre-emptive lawsuit, disputing that the song infringes copyright, because the song was re-recorded by new singers and features new lyrics.

Goldieblox also claims its video is ‘protected by the 'fair use’ doctrine, a legal standard that allows intellectual property to be used if it is reproduced as a parody or part of a new work that transforms the original into something entirely different'.

The Beastie Boys responded to the lawsuit with an 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.

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