Science Avengers … ASSEMBLE!
Next up on the docket is Beastie Boys v. GoldieBlox, Inc. in the 4th Circuit Court for “Ridiculous Applications of Copyright Law”
You know that amazing ad for GoldieBlox engineering toys? The one that features three young girls busting up our pretty pink princess toy culture using one of the greatest Rube Goldberg setups ever devised? The one that has a chance to be played during the Super Bowl, so that people everywhere can see the value of promoting STEM education in young girls’ lives?
Well, the Beastie Boys don’t like it. GoldieBlox produced a parody version of the Beastie Boys’ hit song “Girls” for that ad, and the Boys of Beasthood are going after them for copyright infringement.
GoldieBlox is claiming “fair use” in a counter-filed court claim (or whatever it’s called, I’m a scientist, not a lawyer), which I actually think GBlx have a pretty good case for, but I’m not going to bore you with legal mumbo-jumbo. This is made especially ironic by the fact that the original Beastie Boys song has, shall we say, a decidedly less than flattering view of women.
Inside the GoldieBlox court filing, I found this sick burn directed at the Beastie Boys’ original lyrics compared to the inspiring GoldieBlox version:
In the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ original song, girls are limited (at best) to household chores, and are presented as useful only to the extent they fulfill the wishes of the male singers. The girls are objects. The GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video takes direct aim at the song both visually and with a revised set of lyrics celebrating the many capabilities of girls. Set to the tune of Girls by the Beastie Boys but with a new recording of the music and new lyrics, girls are heard singing an anthem celebrating their broad set of capabilities—exactly the opposite of the message of the original. GoldieBlox Girls are the subjects; they are the actors taking charge of their environment.
It gets better! Look at this chart comparing the lyrics of the original to the lyrics of the parody cover, it’s too good:
The Beastie Boys and Def Jam records just need to do the right thing here and let it goooooooooo (preferably slow and low). That’s where you come in!
I love the Beastie Boys, and they have done a lot of good for the world since their rambunctiously youthful days. Do the right thing. Fight for young girls’ right to party … with toys that empower STEM education.
Signal boost the hell out of this until this meets its rightful end!
*Cracks knuckles* Time to get legal! (My favorite time. Seriously, I love copyright and have a lot of feelings about copyright.)
I took a quick look at the “counter-filed court claim” and found something really interesting: the Beastie Boys have threatened to file suit on this, but they haven’t yet. GoldieBlox, believing wholeheartedly in their fair use claim, filed first, in what’s called a declaratory judgment. Basically, they’re asking the court to say, “Yes, you’re right, this use is protected.”
Basically, they’re forcing the Beastie Boys to go on the defensive about this, instead of just sitting back and threatening to do something about it, while expecting that the itty bitty girly toy company will disappear into the sunset, tail between their legs. Filing for a declaratory judgment is a sign that you’re pretty sure you’re going to win, which brings me to the next part:
The Legal Stuff:
GoldieBlox is absolutely right, this is fair use. Parody is very clearly protected by fair use laws, as decided in Campbell vs. Acuff Rose. In that case, the parody was of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”, and the parody of it made by 2 Live Crew. The court found that even though they’d copied substantial amounts of the “heart” aka melody and some lyrics of the work, there is a finding of fair use. Particularly since parodies are not intended to, and do not replace the original work in the marketplace.
Here, you have a fairly awful sexist song that’s been parodied by an awesome toy company and turned into something delightful. They took the melody from the original, but made their own lyrics and totally flipped the meaning of the song.
That’s a textbook case of fair use.