There's a feud brewing -- albeit a 'friendly' one (for now) between the Beastie Boys and the makers of GoldieBlox over the use of the Boys' song Girls. I don't need to know another detail to say that the use of someone's music without their permission to sell a product is wrong. If someone even used my image or a photo of my kids to sell a product that would be wrong. Using an artist's work, even if it is changed up a bit, without getting approval is an unethical thing to do.
I saw the GoldieBlox ad -- loved it. And yes, it was an ad disguised as a viral video. And I think they knew they were in for a bit of trouble -- no one can be rhymin' and stealin' from the Beastie Boys. The Beastie Boys were of course going to fight for their right .... Interestingly though, it's GoldieBlox who is suing the Beasties, not the other way around.
The toymaker claims it's fair use. But it's an ad. No doubt. Sure they changed the lyrics around a little, but it's still the song Girls. They even have Beastie Boys in the title of the video. I'll admit that the ad made me want to buy the product for my daughter. It was all about breaking down the girl-in-a-box stereotype and encouraging girls that they don't need to be saved, that they could be engineers or code a new app if they want. Hmm. Breaking down stereotypes sure sounds familiar especially to the Beastie Boys who were one of the first and most successful white boy rappers and hip hop artists to be on the music scene.
The Beastie Boys, whether you like their music or not, are all kinds of awesome. They have supported feminism and fought for gender equality. Adam Yauch even has a playground named after him in Brooklyn (one I've been to many times with my own kids). The suriving members of the Beastie Boys, Michael Diamond (a father of two) and Adam Horovitz (married to Kathleen Hanna, one of the coolest feminist activists and lead singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre) issued an open letter to GoldieBlox. Third member Adam Yauch, father of a daughter, passed away from cancer last year. The letter reads:
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.
I think the law should be in the Beastie Boys corner here. I don't blame them for making that decision that their songs cannot be used for advertisements. Can you imagine hearing your song in a commercial for maxi pads or coffee or toilet bowl cleaners? Music is an art, and that art should be protected. And that art should also be respected by other companies. Even though the Beasties agree with the message GoldiBlox is sending, they still need to protect their art. They have that right. GoldiBlox could have responded to the Beastie Boys' question by opening up a dialog with them, not heading straight to their lawyers. It's clear they got scared. Probably because they know they are in the wrong. Perhaps they didn't realize how huge their little ad video would get, and that the Beasties wouldn't find out.
No matter what, I bet GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys are both seeing an increase in sales.
What do you think? Should GoldieBlox be allowed to use the Beastie Boys song?