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Beastie Boys vs. Goldieblox: Who’s Suing Who, Again?

Beastie Boys Studio Portrait

Today in Legal Grey Area news: what’s with the pre-emptive lawsuit trend?

The surviving Beastie Boys (RIP AdRock) no longer have to fight for their right to much of anything…but their lawyers were supposedly itching to battle the makers of that “three little girls” Goldieblox spot that everyone liked last week because it basically remixed the Boys’ sexist 1987 single “Girls” into a female power anthem. These guys told the company that the viral video was a “‘big problem’ that has a ‘very significant impact.‘”

In other words, take it down right now or we will so sue.

What a bunch of bullies, right? Eh, maybe not…

Goldieblox made headlines last Thursday by filing a lawsuit anticipating the threatened lawsuit. They demanded a California court declare that, because the commercial is a “parody”, it does not amount to copyright infringement. Here’s the meat of the statement:

“GoldieBlox created its parody video with specific goals to make fun of the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes and to encourage young girls to engage in activities that challenge their intellect, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video has gone viral on the Internet and has been recognized by the press and the public as a parody and criticism of the original song.”

This claim is dubious because, although the company argues that the video is all about female empowerment, its primary purpose is—duh—to sell toys. Today the Beasties’ lawyers made that point in fancy legal terms:

“…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.”

Two sides to every story.

Now’s the time to mention the fact that the “original” track from the Boys’ debut Licensed to Ill never credited the Isley Brothers’ “Shout”, aka the song it blatantly ripped off. Here, via BoingBoing, is a track overlaying the two. “Girls” wasn’t a parody or a social statement, of course—it was just a really stupid song.

If we were feeling extra grumpy, we might also mention that the Beasties have yet to resolve a lawsuit stemming from the fact that they sampled other peoples’ music without accreditation on their best album Paul’s Boutique way back in 1989.

Serious question: who looks worse in this case? At the moment, we’re going to have to say Goldiblox for claiming that a commercial selling a retail product is actually a social statement. But it could really go either way.

(Pic via Lynn Goldsmith/CORBIS and this blog post, so don’t sue us.)

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