Goldieblox, Beastie Boys, and the copyright quagmire
Chances are that somewhere in your recent internet travels you came across a music video promoting Goldieblox that used the Beastie Boys song Girls. It’s a clever video, for what I think is a really good product. Goldieblox is in the business of making educational toys targeted at young girls. “Building games for girls to inspire future engineers.” is how they put it. If the story ended there, it would probably already be gone. Good product, fun video, what’s next? The internet rarely dawdles. But it really didn’t end there.
The whole thing has erupted into a genuine kerfuffle, all of which is exacerbated by the fact that the Beastie Boys have a long standing policy of not allowing any of their music to be used in advertising. Did the Beastie Boys sue Goldieblox? Or did Goldieblox sue the Beastie Boys? The whole thing really boils to the murky waters of copyright and fair use. There are no actual hard and fast rules. There’s no math. You can’t point to one thing – like the fact that the lyrics in the Goldieblox version could be taken as a commentary on the original song – and say ‘Ha! That makes it fair use.’ Fair use will have to be determined by a court. And if you are curious about how that might play out, Andy Baio has a fantastic post on the whole thing at waxy.org.