November 27, 2013 7:09am PT by Eriq Gardner
Beastie Boys' 'Girls' Pulled From Viral Ad Amid Legal Dispute
Fair use or not, Goldieblox has stopped the music.
The toy company has replaced the Beastie Boys' song, "Girls," from the soundtrack to its controversial viral advertisement which shows three girls playing with a Rube Goldberg-type machine over alternative, empowering song lyrics. In an open letter to Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz, Goldieblox has also offered to withdraw its lawsuit if the band stipulates that the company is no longer under threat.
The move comes after Goldieblox went to court against the Beastie Boys and song publishers, asking for a declaratory judgment that its video wasn't a copyright infringement. Since the first report about the lawsuit, the discussion of how to get young girls into scientific careers has moved to a debate over whether the toy company had the authority to use copyrighted material without license.
Goldieblox sued because it said that representatives of the band had threatened the company. In reaction, the Beastie Boys said they were only inquiring how and why their song had been used.
Regardless of whether there was a real threat or not, the episode provided fodder for observers to talk about the nuances of "fair use," an exception to a copyright owner's ability to control derivatives. Supporters of Goldieblox' original advertisement insisted that the video was a parody, a social commentary and a transformative use of original material. Others supported the Beastie Boys -- including Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. Although advertisements can sometimes have fair use to copyrighted material, commercial speech typically gets less First Amendment protection than expressive speech, and critics of the video saw its primary purpose as selling toys.
The lawsuit filed in California court is still active as of Tuesday night. But Goldieblox is putting a foot forward to end the dispute, albeit after already generating tens of millions of viewers to its original ad.
"We don’t want to fight with you," says Goldieblox on its website blog. "We love you and we are actually huge fans."
The letter says that "hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously," and adds, "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."
The company continues:
"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."
The original video has now been marked private on YouTube. The company has uploaded a new version with more innocent music. See it below.