The Beastie Boys have countersued the toy startup GoldieBlox for copyright infringement and are demanding profits gained from the company’s recent campaign, reviving a legal battle over a GoldieBlox ad that featured a parody of the Beastie Boys song “Girls.”
GoldieBlox began as the Kickstarter project of Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling in late 2012. The girls’ “engineering toys” are like a cross between K’Nex and Polly Pocket, and became a hit last month after a self-produced ad went viral.
The commercial, since pulled from YouTube, featured a parody of the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls,” changing its tongue-in-cheek lyrics denigrating women into lyrics about girls’ empowerment. Here’s an upload still floating around:
The video got over eight million views before GoldieBlox, under pressure from the Beastie Boys’ lawyers, removed it from their YouTube account. The toy company sued for an injunction against the Beasties, claiming that the group had threatened a lawsuit, and asked a California judge to rule that the ad did not infringe on the Beastie Boys’ copyright.
The surviving members of the Beastie Boys countered with an open letter in the New York Times, claiming that the group did not threaten a lawsuit when its lawyers reached out to GoldieBlox to ask why and how the song was used without permission.
Less than a week after filing its lawsuit, GoldieBlox published a blog post asking for a truce:
“Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video,” GoldieBlox said in its blogpost. “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.”
Adam Yauch, better known as MCA, was an original member of the Beastie Boys who passed away in May 2012. In his will, he stated that the Beasties’ music was never to be used in advertising. GoldieBlox claimed ignorance and said they were willing to respect his wishes.
But the Beastie Boys decided on Tuesday that GoldieBlox was acting with “oppression, fraud, and malice,” and that they deserved profits from the toy line that came as a result of the viral video. GoldieBlox claims that its sales saw a “massive increase” due to the campaign (despite some poor reviews).
The Beasties claim that they only learned of the GoldieBlox video when an ad agency that was submitting the video into a contest asked Universal Music if the toy company had the rights to “Girls.” In their version of the story, that was the same day GoldieBlox sued them through a high profile Silicon Valley firm.
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