One of this holiday season's most anticipated gifts is an engineering toy set marketed to girls. The GoldieBlox building sets got a lot of attention from a promotional video that the company released on the Internet and that went viral.
And then the GoldieBlox folks got even more attention because they had used a Beastie Boys song in their video without getting permission from the two surviving members of the band.
The GoldieBlox ad uses the Beastie Boys song "Girls" - which in its original form is not exactly feminist in tone - and changes the lyrics to an ode to the power of science and engineering, sung by a group of young girls who are building a Rube Goldberg-type machine.
The problem is, the GoldieBlox team didn't know (or take the time to find out) that the late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch specified in his will that the group's songs were not to be used to sell products - and the two surviving Beastie Boys agree.
When the Beastie Boys contacted the GoldieBlox Girls about the use of the song, GoldieBlox immediately filed suit against the Beastie Boys seeking a declaratory judgment that their use of the song was a parody and thus fair use.
Responding to the surprise lawsuit, the Beastie Boys penned an open letter to the GoldieBlox team on November 25:
"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. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song Girls had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US."
But this lawsuit has a happy ending for all parties. The original version of the video - after amassing 10 million views - has been removed and replaced with one that doesn't use the Beastie Boys song, and GoldieBlox has dropped the lawsuit.
Not only that, but the GoldieBlox folks have written their own open letter in reply to the Beasties:
"We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.
"When we made our parody version of your song, ‘Girls’, we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to transform it into a powerful anthem for girls.
"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. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours.
"Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. 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.
"We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends."
So everyone's happy, and the original GoldieBlox video probably garnered a few million hits from the copyright controversy alone.