Business News Legal

Beastie Boys go legal over GoldieBlox ad

By | Published on Thursday 12 December 2013


The dispute between the Beastie Boys and American toy company GoldieBlox over the latter’s use of a rework the former’s track ‘Girls’ in an advert isn’t going away, even though the toy maker swapped in an alternative piece of music on the ad and issued a statement saying it didn’t want to offend the Beasties in anyway, because everyone there thought that the hip hop group were fab.

But it seems the surviving members of the Beastie Boys aren’t impressed, even though in an open letter Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz said they respected GoldieBlox’s mission to make toys for young girls that break down gender stereotypes. But, they added, they had previously made a conscious decision to not license their tracks for use in advertising, so much so that the third Beastie Boy, the late Adam Yauch, stated that desire in his will.

Before the Beastie Boys’ open letter, GoldieBlox had already gone pre-emptively legal, having heard that a copyright action was being considered, and seeking court confirmation that, because their version of ‘Girls’ mocked the sexist lyrics of the original, that constituted parody, and therefore the toy firm was allowed to use the track without permission under the fair use system in American copyright law.

Despite the toy maker subsequently back-tracking a little, reports say that GoldieBlox management said they would only withdraw their legal action if the Beastie Boys committed to never launch their own copyright litigation against the company. The hip hoppers seemingly declined to make such a commitment, and in return asked GoldieBlox to issue a more apologetic statement over its use of ‘Girls’ without permission, and to make a suitable donation to charity.

With little progress having since been made, the Beastie Boys have now filed a countersuit that formally accuses GoldieBlox of copyright infringement as well as unfair competition and misappropriation of publicity rights.

The toy firm will presumably continue with its parody defence, which may well prevail in court given the nature of the ad. Though it transpires that the company has posted similar pop-song-borrowing ads online before, including music by Daft Punk and Avicii, where the case for parody would be less clear cut. So GoldieBlox may want to resist legal action that could, in some way, bring the Beastie’s label Universal into the mix.

One to watch, then.