Beastie Boys open letter: "threat" was just a question

The Beastie Boys have apparently published an open letter to GoldieBlox (the letter is mentioned in this NYT post, but not linked to, and does not appear on the Beastie Boys' official website) arguing that GoldieBlox misunderstood their earlier communications questioning parodying their song "Girls" in a viral video ad.

In last week's filing with the Northern District Court of California, GoldieBlox's lawyers stated that they had been "threatened" by the Beastie Boys' lawyers, who had claimed that the video was "a copyright infringement, not fair use" (for detailed fair use analysis, see this EFF post) and a "big problem."

According to the NYT story, the open letter in response to the suit claims that the earlier communication from the Beastie Boys' lawyers was intended as an information query ("When we tried to simply ask how and why our song 'Girls' had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US") and not a threat.

It's not clear if the initial communication from the Beasties' lawyers to GoldieBlox was written or verbal, and if it was written, it has yet to be published.

Update: Here's the text of the Beasties' open letter to GoldieBlox:

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

Notable Replies

  1. sounds like GoldieBlocks is gonna sell a lot of toys.

  2. I'd recommend the twitter feed of @doctorow or @waxpancake, where there are a lot of educated (and uneducated) folks weighing in. As I understand it, there's a four-factor test, only one of which hinges upon advertising. And even then, it doesn't say advertising can't enjoy fair use, only that it might receive "less indulgence."

    Given the strong pro-feminist / anti-sexist message of the video in relation to the original, it's hard to imagine what would pass the bar if this doesn't.

  3. To be fair the message of the advert is irrelevant, they're still just slinging toys. If it were a McDonalds ad, even with a pro-feminist message, I can't imagine the overall attitude to the situation would be the same.

    I'm actually in the 'I find it distasteful' camp. I love the message, and had it been on some YouTube'rs account as a non-commercial parody I'd get the anger. But as it stands it's just a toy company making money off the backs of others - that's not really what I understand fair use to be for; even if it technically qualifies.

    I don't know the legal in's and out's though, that's just my opinion. But I don't have anything against the Beastie Boys here. If I were a musician I wouldn't like my music being used for ads either - and if all you have to do to use it commercially is change a few lyrics then I'm surprised that Anusol haven't danced on Johnny Cash's grave yet.

  4. I read this as GoldieBlox decided to use the Streisand Effect to get a ton of positive publicity. It wasn't enough for them to knowingly use a song against the wishes of the creator, they also have to try to publicly demonize the creator in order to promote themselves.

  5. agro says:

    well sometimes you have to Fight For Your Right to Parody

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