Beastie Boys in fight with US toy company over viral video

But who's right? The girls-can-be-engineers toy startup or the no-music-in-ads hip-hoppers? It may be down to a judge to decide.

Beastie Boys in fight with US toy company over viral video

A legal row has broken out between hip-hop legends The Beastie Boys and an upstart US toy company with the viral video of the moment.

So who to back in this one - the avidly anti-commercial B-Boys or the perky little company with a message that girls can be engineers too?

Tough call.

Let's start at the start - here's the wildly viral video by Goldieblox, which has notched up over 8 million views since being released last week.

The video's premise is that girls don't have to settle for the pink aisle in the toy store, and it employs three cute-as-a-button kids, a complex Rube Goldberg machine and a rewritten version of the 1987 Beastie Boys' song 'Girls' - swopping out the original misogynistic lyrics for a message of female empowerment - to great effect.

Great stuff, right? (here's how they made it, btw)

Girls can be engineers too, the San Francisco toy company tells us… but the Beastie Boys are not happy with their song being used like this.

As Mashable first reported, Goldieblox filed a lawsuit last Thursday claiming that the Beastie Boys had threatened them with legal action.

(The 'Goldieblox and the spinning machine' toy)

In their action - in legal terms called a 'declaratory relief' judgement, the company were asking a court to preemptively rule that the Beasties had no basis to sue, on the grounds that the video was a 'parody', and as such, permissive under the doctrine of Fair Use.

The suit says that it “created its parody video specifically to comment on the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes.”

To sum up - 'the song is a parody so we're not infringing copyright because you're allowed make parodies'.

Still with us?

After this, it gets even murkier, as the Beastie Boys subsequently denied having threatened the toy firm with legal action in the first place.

But in the latest twist in the tail, the New York Times today reports that the band wrote an open letter to Goldieblox, rejecting its parody defence.

(The Beastie Boys, back in the day)

"We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering," reads the letter quoted in the NYT.

"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."

Many commentators have painted the Beasties' position as a PR fail, because in simplistic terms it pits them against a young, positive company with a great viral video - and it's over a misygonistic song that the band themselves have long since disavowed.

But you'll recall the passing of Beastie Boys founder member Adam Yauch (MCA) in 2012 - and the subsequent revelation that his will forbade the use of BB music in any advertising, ever.

So it seems that the surviving Beasties, Ad Rock (Adam Horowitz) and Mike D (Michael Diamond), in picking a fight with a toy company, are merely obeying the wishes of their late compadre.

It will be interesting to see how this one plays out…

Update 27/11/2013

Today GoldieBlox removed and replaced the orginial video.

In addition GoldieBlox issued an open letter to the Beatie Boys, saying that they did not want a fight and were in fact huge fans.

They also said that as a small company they had to take any such threats seriously. The company said that they want to respect Adam Yauch's wishes and were unaware he had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising.

It has been reported by The Verge that the court case has apparently been withdrawn.

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