GoldieBlox, founded by Debbie Sterling (who is also the company's CEO), makes it their mission to inspire young girls to become engineers. Currently the the engineering field is governed by men. In GoldieBlox's effort to pursue their mission they may have infringed on Beastie Boy's copyright. In one of GoldieBlox's YouTube Videos, a group of adorable girls created a "Rube Goldberg machine made of re-purposed pink toys." A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption that performs a simple task but with an elaborate chain reaction.
In the video, GoldieBlox adopts the Beastie Boy song Girls. The lyrics are changed to reflect GoldieBlox's goal to introduce and attract girls to the field of invention and design. However, the music is set to the original melody of Girls. After the Beastie Boys saw the GoldieBlox video, they corresponded with GoldieBlox stating that the video violated their copyright protection.
GoldieBlox then wrote a petition against the Beastie Boys, Island Def Jam Music Group, and Rick Rubin declaring that the video did not on infringe Beastie Boys rights. Namely because the GoldieBlox video is a spoof of the Beastie Boy's song, not an advertisement. Also, the video should not be considered infringement but "be covered by the fair use doctrine." GoldieBlox had a fairly strong argument because of a previous Supreme Court finding, Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music. In this situation, 2 Live Crew created a spoof of the Pretty Women song. The Supreme Court "considered [the song] fair use because it was a parody of the original. Despite the fact that there was a commercial element."
Regardless, after communicating several times via letter with Adam Horovitz ("Ad-Rock") and Michael Diamond ("Mike D") of the Beastie Boys GoldieBlox decided to exchange the song for another song. They communicated their decision to the Beastie Boys in an open letter. In summary, GoldieBlox elected to remove the song from their video because the Beastie Boys resolved in the past that their songs would never be used in commercials, and Adam Yauch requested this in his will. GoldieBlox wanted to honor the deceased band member's request as they explained in their correspondence.
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.
Although this legal battle has ended amicably, many lawsuits do not. If you have any questions about copyright infringement or intellectual property, please contact Traklight.