Dear, Beastie Boys. Goldieblox is (not) sorry.
Goldieblox is a toy company for girls that “builds games for girls to inspire future engineers.” Great concept. Great message, right? Absolutely. Well, recently they produced a very creative commercial that used a “reinterpretation” of Beastie Boys, song, “Girls.” Only one problem. They didn’t get permission to use the song. They claim that it is a parody, therefore, completely fair use. I claim common sense and that it’s a blatant theft of creative material they did not create in order to sell their product.
Turns out the Beastie Boys felt the same way and weren’t too keen on what happened. At this point the company has gotten millions of video views, plenty of free press, and I imagine a good amount of sales at the end of the day. So, in honor of their “parody”, I thought I’d do a “reinterpretation” of my own. Of Goldieblox’s apology letter:
We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans. So much so, that we decided to rip off your song without your permission. Yes, we are HUGE fans.
When we made our parody (And by parody, we mean exactly the same chorus line + music) version of your song, “Girls”, we did it with the best of intention$. We wanted to take a song we weren’t too proud of (OK, I guess we aren’t really fans), 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 (This is EXTREMELY cute, therefore negating our blatant theft. Cute > Theft), building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and declaring an interest in engineering. It’s been incredible to watch (the sales jump on our website).
Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously (but not as seriously as your intellectual property rights). As a small (for profit) company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves (but, of course, not our actions). We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you (because we are screwed if this goes to court).
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 (even though this is irrelevant, because without this will, it would still be use of your song in order to sell a product without your permission). Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use (not really), we would like to respect his wishes and yours (because we got caught).
Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video (8 million views and counting). 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 (because we have already gotten what we needed out of the ad with all this attention. Thanks!).
We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation (to become both engineers and future creative copyright infringers!). We want to be good role models (Want. Not are, just want). And we want to be your friends (You know. In the way someone wants to be friends with the ex that they just got caught cheating on.)
For those who don’t see anything wrong with what Goldiblox did, consider this: Appropriating copyrighted, creative content for the purpose of selling products is theft. Changing the lyrics a bit, having a different person sing it and putting cute kids front and center doesn’t change the fact that it’s theft. Would the commercial have gotten as much attention if it wasn’t using the Beastie Boys song? Probably not. They effectively drafted off the fame and creativity of another entity.
Inspiration is great. But do it ethically.