After a week of back-and-forth, it looks like the copyright scrap between toy company GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys saga might finally be drawing to a close, just in time for everyone's lawyers to go home for Thanksgiving.
Let's recap: Last week, the San Francisco toy startup GoldieBlox released a commercial featuring cute kids and an empowering rewrite of the Beastie Boys' "Girls," with replacement lyrics like: "Girls — to build the spaceship/ Girls — to code the new app." It went almost instantly viral.
Problem is, the Beastie Boys are famously against their songs appearing in commercials, and Adam Yauch's will expressly forbids it. When the group's lawyers sent GoldieBlox a letter to that effect, the startup skipped Go, did not collect $200 and instead went directly to court, asking a judge to go ahead and rule the commercial fair use.
Perhaps realizing this was not a fight they particularly wanted, the remaining Beasties responded with an open letter (via The New York Times) praising the "the creativity and the message behind [GoldieBlox's] ad" and backing the company's core mission. Nevertheless:
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.
Thankfully, it sounds like our long Internet nightmare of choosing whether to side with an alternative to princess mania or the widely beloved Beastie Boys is over. GoldieBlox has now stripped the song from the video and published their own open letter (Jesus, people, always with the open letters), professing their love for the group and swearing, hand over heart, to nothing but the best of intentions.
"We don't want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans," the note published on their site begins, then goes on:
Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.
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.
Besides removing the song from the video, "we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team." Translation: "Put down the gun and everyone walks out of here in one piece."
It's up to the Beasties to respond, of course, but they don't seem too eager to bring the hammer down. Who wants to crush a startup trying to sell engineering toys? (Regardless whether it's a great toy or not.)
This is where a cynic might note that GoldieBlox didn't need the song anymore, because the company's already gotten exactly what it wanted. They got a feel-good viral hit and a week of sustained news coverage, right on the eve of the holiday shopping season.
But hey, at least everyone now has at least one go-to alternative to Barbie.
Toy Company Pulls Beastie Boys Song From Viral Video [New York Times]
Our letter to the Beastie Boys [GoldieBlox]
Beastie Boys Fight Online Video Parody of 'Girls' [New York Times]
Beastie Boys, 'Girls' Viral Video in Copyright Infringement Fight[Hollywood Reporter]