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Beastie Boys settle for an apology from Goldieblox
March 18, 2014 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Remember Goldieblox who fought for their right to infringe? Beastie Boys have agreed to settle the lawsuit, for a percentage of the revenues to be donated to one or more charities selected by Beastie Boys that support science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for girls. Class.
posted by dabitch (118 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well this all worked out... just right.
posted by angerbot at 4:42 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


They won the contest for a Super Bowl ad.... I guess the donations are a good thing but GB certainly parleyed the controversy into a lot of exposure.
posted by edgeways at 4:47 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


yay, Beastie Boys!!!
posted by Bwithh at 5:10 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Good.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:11 PM on March 18


We've come a long, long, long way from

Four on the floor Adrock's out the door
M.C.A.'s in the back because he's skeezin' with a whore
We got a safe in the trunk with money in a stack
With dice in the front and Brooklyn's in the back

Good on them.
posted by Sophie1 at 5:19 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]




Are we celebrating the Beastie Boys for being classy just because they decided not to take this thing as far as it could go and totally bleed GoldieBlox? I think it's pretty embarrassing for the company; they have to apologize and admit that their stance was wrong, wasting a bunch of people's time and money, and they still have to pay, except to charities instead of the Beastie Boys themselves. It's doubly embarrassing that GoldieBlox is in the position of being legally obligated by a couple of rap guys to donate a portion of their revenue to girls education, as opposed to doing it just because it's the right thing to do. Whoops.
posted by ReeMonster at 5:39 PM on March 18 [13 favorites]


Wow. I missed the entire first thread on this and... am kind of amazed there was a thread, meaning I'm amazed there were people who actually believed Goldiblox had a leg to stand on in this.

Can only say this in vagueries, but as someone who was actually once C&Ded by a large company complete with 1000+ word emails from multiple lawyers, explaining in full detail with precedent how something is not a "parody" just because I really wanted to say it was and thus somehow magically become legal to make and distribute because reasons, I can say from experience Goldiblox's only angle on this must have been hedging their bets on winning a court-of-opinion war and failing badly.

Even outside of what side you're on though, I can't help but be amazed at the prowess of the Beasties' lawyers for winning, proving their point, protecting their IP and still looking like the good guys in all of it. I'm impressed and terrified at the same time.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:43 PM on March 18 [27 favorites]


Like the man said..
If you want a battle you're in denial.
Coming from Uranus to check my style.
Go ahead, put my rhymes on trial.
Cast you off into exile.

posted by bleep at 5:44 PM on March 18


Not good enough. No Cookie.
posted by vicx at 5:44 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Reading this, it's kind of hard to like the Goldieblox marketing team.
posted by Chuffy at 5:47 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]


Let's not forget that it was GoldieBlox that sued first, nor that they managed to parley this fiasco into a Super Bowl ad spot through a contest which they should have been disqualified from (the rules explicitly stated that submissions had to have any IP used cleared.) It was pretty clear they planned to try to win this in the court of public opinion, only to have their plans backfire when they found themselves tramping on a man's grave.

No cookie, indeed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:51 PM on March 18 [25 favorites]


Clearly a parody of the original song, even if the misogyny expressed there was a character speaking rather than the artists. Sorry, surviving Beastie Boys, but you're the villains here.
posted by The Tensor at 5:51 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or do Goldiblox look pretty un-fun?
posted by latkes at 5:55 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


(Said as someone who fully, fully supports femme engineering toys.)
posted by latkes at 5:56 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Team Beastie Boys.

Thanks for posting - I was wondering what would happen with this.

And yes, please note that The Beastie Boys initially only wrote a letter to GoldieBlox, only to be sued preemptively. I think this turned out as well as it could have.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:58 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Best possible resolution. Beastie Boys defend their rights. Goldiblox gets off light. Girls still win.
posted by zanni at 6:04 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Advertising doesn't often encompass Fair Use, and this case wasn't much of a poster child for it. Goldieblox should consider itself very lucky.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:06 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]


The song "Squirrels", which I heard on Dr. Demento probably about 25 years ago, was a parody.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:14 PM on March 18 [9 favorites]


Yeah I came to this whole mess really shocked at the Beastie Boys, but the more I actually learned the more I felt like they were being about as cool as they possibly could. And as an engineer with a daughter, I really ended up with a much worse feeling for GoldieBlocks than I wanted.

And honestly, it was kind of a stupid ad.

"Hey, how come all girls' toys are pink and princessy?"

OK, I agree that sucks.

"So we made engineering toys for girls"

...OK, not sure they need to be "for girls", but I'm down!

"They are pink! And the stories are about Princesses!"

Hmm.
posted by freebird at 6:14 PM on March 18 [39 favorites]


"Clearly a parody of the original song,"

Not really, that's not how copyright works. This was a derivative work for commercial use, at best. They got called on it, and lost.

"even if the misogyny expressed there was a character speaking rather than the artists. Sorry, surviving Beastie Boys, but you're the villains here."

Respectfully, not really, again. The Beasties may arguably be many things, but they aren't villains for enforcing their copyright. Remember when artists were heralded for enforcing their copyright against political candidates using their songs on the campaign trail? Kinda the same thing, right?

This is a copyright/commercial use matter, not a political one. Want to use someone's song? Just ask, it's not that hard.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 6:28 PM on March 18 [22 favorites]


"So we made engineering toys for girls"

...OK, not sure they need to be "for girls", but I'm down!

"They are pink! And the stories are about Princesses!"

Hmm.


As the father of a young girl, this kind of thing is ambivalence fuel for me. On the one hand, I feel like if starting off this way (and Lego Friends) culturally normalizes the idea of engineering toys for girls' gifts, them I'm pragmatic enough to say fuck it, whatever works. We have pretty progressive friends and family who never ever ever buy my daughter superhero stuff despite the fact that she loves it and has had comics-themed birthday parties, and near as I can figure, it's because of all the cultural horseshit surrounding this boy/girl toy stuff. I don't think it actually occurs to them, even when they're getting party invitations that look like the Daily Planet.

So what the hell, if pink blocks today promotes building toys to girls and means adults get used to the idea of girls doing this, then okay.

On the other hand, yeah, the whole thing pisses me off.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:40 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Class.

One of those days where I ABSOLUTELY approve of editorializing in the FPP.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:44 PM on March 18


Class my ass.

Goldieblox made a parody, which is protected reuse. It was also a parody that was a political statement. The fact that it was in a commercial is irrelevant.

If a Weird Al song was in a commercial, the original author would have no greater or lesser right to prevent Weird Al from making the parody.

Classy would have been for the Beastie Boys to have not threatened litigation in the first place, and to have not postured with pricey lawyers to intimidate a small company into settling.

Simultaneously, the entire idea of making pink engineering toys with princess stories to combat gendered tendencies in toy manufacturing is incredibly daffy. You combat gendered toys by not doing princess stories.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:47 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Are we delving into this stuff again? Parody is a richly protected exception within the copyright infringement rubric, and the nature of the use (advertisement) is but one factor to consider among many in the fair use analysis. This isn't 'clearly' anything - fair use analysis is almost always murky by nature - but it would be nice if we could avoid black-and-white "villains and heroes" statements in this discussion.
posted by naju at 6:49 PM on March 18 [14 favorites]


Pink building blocks are for the springtime, like all of the other pastels. Not for girls or boys.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:54 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


If a Weird Al song was in a commercial, the original author would have no greater or lesser right to prevent Weird Al from making the parody.

In fact they would easily be able to stop him. The majority of Weird Al's parody songs wouldn't stand up under the parody clause because they aren't parodying the original work, they're only using the original work to parody something else. Weird Al is able to publish albums only because he gets explicit permission from every artist whose music he uses.

You can't take someone else's music, put new words to it, and claim "hey I got free music because parody". Doesn't work that way.
posted by rifflesby at 7:02 PM on March 18 [13 favorites]


Personally, I prefer the harsh monochromes and unforgiving geometry of winter building blocks.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:03 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]


It was a bad "parody" that was really just an appropriation of a song that most of their intended audience would not recognize, save for their parents. It was crying out to go "viral" and was completely concocted to sell gendered toys. The commercial makes no sense and in order to be a parody, I think some sort of humor is at least required in the spirit of the word "parody." Or I'm just pulling stuff out of my ass like anyone who says it's "clear cut" but no, not funny, not parody, just crass commercialism and SEO.
posted by lordaych at 7:06 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


> Goldieblox made a parody, which is protected reuse. It was also a parody that was a political statement. The fact that it was in a commercial is irrelevant.

Absolutely not. It was a commercial first and last. or are you about to show us the other musical parodies that GoldieBlox routinely produce?
posted by Artful Codger at 7:09 PM on March 18 [9 favorites]


"The majority of Weird Al's parody songs wouldn't stand up under the parody clause because they aren't parodying the original work, they're only using the original work to parody something else. Weird Al is able to publish albums only because he gets explicit permission from every artist whose music he uses."

Errr. Ok. I need to reveal a bit of personal information here and tell you that I worked for Weird Al's parent company, Zomba Music, in the copyright licensing department for years and years. I personally was responsible for obtaining the mechanical and synch licenses for many of Al's albums, and this is not accurate.

Al and Jay reached out to each artist and publisher for 'permission' as a courtesy, but it wasn't required. We got the licenses through the usual licensing channels.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:10 PM on March 18 [66 favorites]


"Weird Al is able to publish albums only because he gets explicit permission from every artist whose music he uses."

This is not true. See: Lady Gaga, Coolio, James Blunt.
posted by klangklangston at 7:11 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Team Beastie, now and forever.
posted by scody at 7:14 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Classy would have been for the Beastie Boys to have not threatened litigation in the first place

They didn't. IIRC they sent a letter asking what was up and Goldiblox sued them.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:16 PM on March 18 [15 favorites]


Errr. Ok. I need to reveal a bit of personal information here and tell you that I worked for Weird Al's parent company, Zomba Music, in the copyright licensing department for years and years. I personally was responsible for obtaining the mechanical and synch licenses for many of Al's albums, and this is not accurate.

I love MetaFilter. :)
posted by The Tensor at 7:19 PM on March 18 [18 favorites]


"Weird Al is able to publish albums only because he gets explicit permission from every artist whose music he uses."

This is not true. See: Lady Gaga, Coolio, James Blunt.


These are three different things:

Gaga -- Al asked for permission, was told by her management that she wanted to hear the entire song, and recorded it. Then her management refused "permission," and it turned out she'd never been consulted at all. Al didn't put the song on an album but released it online for free.

Coolio -- Al's label told him Coolio had given permission. After Coolio said that he hadn't (which is probably the case, but there's a possibility that he had granted permission and reconsidered), Al apologized to him, but it was already on the album.

Blunt -- Al had permission from Blunt, but his label started making noise, so Al pulled the song from the album but released it online for free.

It's Al's personal choice not to do songs without the approval of the artists (Prince famously turns him down every single time); it's not a legal issue. They're all transformative parody, even the polka medleys.
posted by Etrigan at 7:19 PM on March 18 [12 favorites]


The Lady Gaga track he didn't put on an album, though, he only released it for free on the internet, yes? And the deal with Coolio was that there was a miscommunication whereby he was given permission by Coolio's label but Coolio himself wasn't consulted. I hadn't heard of anything about James Blunt.

I'll bow to BlerpityBloop's personal experience, though, as I'm no legal expert or anything. Just a dude who reads a lot of stuff on the internet. But if it is the case that Al would be free to use that music without permission, then what is it that stops lyricists from just grabbing whatever music they want and using it for free, claiming "parody"?
posted by rifflesby at 7:19 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Al and Jay reached out to each artist and publisher for 'permission' as a courtesy, but it wasn't required. We got the licenses through the usual licensing channels.

So, he did or did not get permission legally...?
posted by GrapeApiary at 7:20 PM on March 18


it's my understanding that you need to pay royalties on any song you cover, but you don't necessarily need a songwriter's express permission to do so
posted by pyramid termite at 7:23 PM on March 18


"Coolio -- Al's label told him Coolio had given permission. After Coolio said that he hadn't (which is probably the case, but there's a possibility that he had granted permission and reconsidered), Al apologized to him, but it was already on the album."

No. This is not what happened. It was an issue with the samples used in Coolio's version.

"it's my understanding that you need to pay royalties on any song you cover, but you don't necessarily need a songwriter's express permission to do so"

Correct, provided the 'cover' doesn't deviate too much from the original. It's called a 'compulsory mechanical license' and is a pain in the ass last resort.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:25 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


"But if it is the case that Al would be free to use that music without permission, then what is it that stops lyricists from just grabbing whatever music they want and using it for free, claiming "parody"?"

There's a four-point test to assert fair use, and it's incredibly murky in practice, so the general threat of litigation prevents most people even when their parodies would be fair use.

There's a tremendous amount of info out there about fair use and its limits. Anyone claiming that Goldieblox was clear-cut or that they were out of line filing for pre-emptive declaration of fair use doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about.
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


"this kind of thing is ambivalence fuel for me"

What color flame leaps from a fire of ambivalence? Beige?
posted by device55 at 7:32 PM on March 18 [23 favorites]


"Coolio -- Al's label told him Coolio had given permission. After Coolio said that he hadn't (which is probably the case, but there's a possibility that he had granted permission and reconsidered), Al apologized to him, but it was already on the album."

No. This is not what happened. It was an issue with the samples used in Coolio's version.


From the weirdal.com FAQ:
What about Coolio? I heard that he was upset with Al about "Amish Paradise."

That was a very unfortunate case of misunderstanding between Al's people and Coolio's people. Short version of the story: Al recorded "Amish Paradise" after being told by his record label that Coolio had given his permission for the parody. When Al's album came out, Coolio publicly contended that he had never given his blessing, and that he was in fact very offended by the song. To this day we're not exactly sure who got their facts wrong, but Al sincerely apologizes to Coolio for the misunderstanding.
If there had been an issue with the samples in Coolio's version, how would that have affected a parody, which is already covered by fair use?
posted by Etrigan at 7:42 PM on March 18


I manage, edit and write a bunch of blogs for clients (law firms, software companies, resorts, CAD and Revit shops - the works in terms of small businesses).

Finding compelling images to use with blog posts is always a problem. However I NEVER EVER resuse images (photos, etc) I find on the web to post on our websites for commercial purposes unless there is a license that says I can do so.

Why? Because it is theft to do so (these are businesses and images are used to generate income for those businesses) and is most definitely not "fair use."

People who think the Beasties are the villains here should perhaps mail me their car keys or their give me their bank account login information.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:53 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


KokuRyu: "People who think the Beasties are the villains here should perhaps mail me their car keys or their give me their bank account login information."

But for god's sake don't then donate money to a girls' education charity, because that would be "embarrassing". For some reason.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:04 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


"People who think the Beasties are the villains here should perhaps mail me their car keys or their give me their bank account login information."

That's a total non-sequitor, and you're begging the question of fair use/parody. Don't do that.
posted by klangklangston at 8:16 PM on March 18


IAmBroom , could you work a little harder in misreading what KokuRyu just said, please? I don't think they heard you in the back.
posted by dabitch at 8:20 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Also, the Gaga song IS on Alpocalypse, his most recent album. He released it for free (and I think figured that his album was going to be a little late, too, since he needed a new lead single if that was the case) -- then Gaga said she had never been asked, and loved the idea, which put the album back on track, and it was released. But to remove any further bad-feelings, he donates all royalties from that song to a LGBT charity. (I wanna say Human Rights Commision?)

Double also: Al's said that the asking-for-permission aspect is both being nice, but also to negotiate a song-writing credit. Legally, his parodies are derivative works, which means that the original songwriter also owns the Al version. However, if he negotiates a credit, that means he gets profit if he has another "Eat It" or "White & Nerdy".

If he didn't do that, he could still release the album -- he just wouldn't get any radio royalties for his parodies.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 8:29 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


At least one of them is classy and doing something for young women. The other one sells toys.
posted by bongo_x at 8:29 PM on March 18 [8 favorites]


That's a total non-sequitor, and you're begging the question of fair use/parody. Don't do that.

What Goldieblox did can not (as decided in court) be classified as "fair use" or "parody."

Anyway, I can never tell these days... are you a mod now?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:35 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I thought GoldieBlox ended up doing a different version for the Super Bowl using a take off of "Come On Feel The Noise"? Did I miss something?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:38 PM on March 18


Oh, the super bowl spot was done by a different ad agency and production company, and they had shot that before Goldieblox won the popular vote in the competition where you could win these 30 seconds in the bowl. The main rush in votes happened when the Beastie boys ad was released by Goldieblox on youtube. Make of that coincidence what you will.
posted by dabitch at 8:45 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


As a vehement anti-Bloxer, I want to point out that the GoldieBlox apology appears in teeny letters at the bottom of their website, has been written to imply that the Bloxers were wide-eyed and naive (as opposed to the heavily funded Silicon Valley pros they really are), and -- my favorite part -- has been posted as an image file instead of text to avoid SEO optimization.
posted by harperpitt at 8:45 PM on March 18 [16 favorites]


I think it's interesting to note that way back, when the Beasties were just getting started, they successfully sued British Airways for using part of a tune from their very first release "Cooky Puss" without their permission. At that time, of course, they weren't the well-to-do veteran stars they are now, and used the money themselves to rent a pad in NYC and do some rehearsing!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:51 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I want to point out that the GoldieBlox apology... has been posted as an image file instead of text to avoid SEO optimization.

Am I the only one who wants to do an old-fashioned google-bomb to counteract that anti-SEO action?
posted by incessant at 9:10 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


also, SEO optimization? Blerg. I owe the writing gods $5, which I will withdraw from the ATM machine.
posted by harperpitt at 9:14 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]


incessant , uhm. No. That was pretty much my first thought so I posted this (the blockquote being a link).
posted by dabitch at 9:17 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


"What Goldieblox did can not (as decided in court) be classified as "fair use" or "parody."

Anyway, I can never tell these days... are you a mod now?
"

Nope, just a guy who can read. You should try it sometime, it'd keep you from saying things like that it was decided in court that Goldieblox can't be classified as "fair use" or "parody," because what actually happened was that they settled a lawsuit, which avoids a court determination on the issue.

So, uh, that's why you shouldn't do that. Because it looks like you have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by klangklangston at 10:12 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


because what actually happened was that they settled a lawsuit, which avoids a court determination on the issue.

Can't tell you how many times people misunderstand this. It drives me up the wall.
posted by dhartung at 11:05 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Not only that, but it was specifically dismissed without prejudice, which allows the parties to refile. It's like the exact opposite of a court determination.

Sorry, it's a peeve of mine too, especially with fair use rulings.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 PM on March 18


OK, back at my computer after a few hours. I admit that my "clearly parody and the Beasties are villains" comment was too brief and wasn't likely to convince anyone of anything, so sorry for that. However, in all seriousness, before you comment in this thread, you should go read the old thread so you can at least avoid embarrassing yourself with wrong arguments like:
  1. The Beastie Boys have a copyright—case closed!
  2. Adam Yauch said "no commercials" in his will—case closed!
  3. GoldieBlox is trying to make money, so it can't be fair use!
I agree that the legal result if this case had gone to trial is not absolutely cut-and-dried and there's room for good-faith disagreement. That said, as a non-lawyer who's pretty familiar with intellectual property law and generally supportive of artists' rights, I am convinced that the Goldieblox song is a direct parody of the original—not just a derivative work, but one intended as mockery and counterpoint to the ideas expressed in the original—though I understand that that alone isn't enough to decide the case.

What's more, the terms of the settlement strike me as obnoxious rather than "class". The Beasties certainly didn't suffer any financial harm from the incident. Why not simply settle for an agreement barring future derivative works, plus legal fees? Rich music moguls with expensive lawyers strongarming a young startup aimed at fostering female engineers into donating money to charities with the same goal reminds me of a bully saying, "Why are you hitting yourself?"

Disclaimer: my two young daughters love Goldieblox, so maybe I'm biased.
posted by The Tensor at 11:16 PM on March 18


You've gotta fight

For your right

to PARRRtake of the protections granted by copyright law to control unauthorized use and derivative works of your creative output...
posted by mmoncur at 11:18 PM on March 18 [32 favorites]


mmoncur wins this thread.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:34 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


...it was specifically dismissed without prejudice...

The article says "with prejudice".
posted by The Tensor at 11:34 PM on March 18


The filing says without prejudice, as does the main link. I haven't been able to track down the final dismissal, and will happily amend my opinion if I'm wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 PM on March 18


The Tensor: " The Beasties certainly didn't suffer any financial harm from the incident."

You mean other than the licensing fees which they would be owed?

Real question time: if Goldieblox was a Mattel product, would that change anything?
posted by pwnguin at 12:24 AM on March 19


Didn't the Beastie Boys do a song called Rhymin' and Stealin'? And didn't coolie rip off an entire stevie wonder song?
posted by marienbad at 2:03 AM on March 19


Wait minute. The guys who put out "Paul's Boutique" are upset at someone using their work in a parody song? They themselves got rich using others' work.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:17 AM on March 19


My take on this is pretty simple: I'm a Beastie fan, but there's no question that:

A) Girls, as a track, has unambiguous sexist overtones
B) Goldieblox, as a company, has an unambiguous mission to fight those overtones

I don't buy the argument that the commercial nature of Goldieblox blocks them from responding to the Beastie Boys, nor that they are not allowed to issue the response in the musical domain. If somebody writes a book you don't like, you're allowed to write a book in response and profit from that, no?

I'm sure Goldieblox's other parodies might be more questionable, but this particular one is as legit as it gets. Don't make a song with the lyrics:
Girls - to do the dishes
Girls - to clean up my room
Girls - to do the laundry
Girls - and in the bathroom
...and be surprised if people have ideas for other things girls can do.
posted by effugas at 2:34 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


I completely disagree that either of those are unambiguous. First, the tongue-in-cheek nature of Girls leaves its 'sexist overtones' at least somewhat ambiguous; second, Goldieblox, a company that makes blatantly gendered building blocks, seems itself to be kind of ambiguous in wanting to fight sexist overtones.
posted by scrowdid at 4:08 AM on March 19 [7 favorites]


Bringing up examples of the Beastie Boys from 30 years ago is kind of weak when they explicitly gave up that stuff a long time ago.
posted by bleep at 4:31 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


Not to mention, MCA's will specifically banned their songs from being used in advertising. The law takes precedence, sure, but the Beastie Boys were also upholding the last wishes of one of their members by fighting this.
posted by alvarete at 4:34 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]


Why do so many people think they understand the law when they so clearly don't?
posted by whuppy at 5:25 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Why do so many people think they understand the law when they so clearly don't?

The same reason so many people think they understand any number of things they clearly don't? That's just a guess, because I clearly don't understand these things. But if you think lawyers have it bad with unqualified laypeople overvaluing their opinions, talk to a musician. :-)
posted by slkinsey at 5:51 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


I am not a lawyer or a judge, so obviously my opinion has no bearing in the real world, but I remember when this came up last fall, and the more I read about it the more strongly I felt in favor of The Beastie Boys. Mostly because of the wishes of Adam Yauch not to have their music played in ads (and I realize his wishes probably don't have any legal bearing), but also because Goldieblox, despite their PC stated goals of empowering girls, seems to be a marketing bully.

And I say this as someone who works in a field traditionally dominated by men, and as someone who has a niece who studied engineering. In fact my niece mostly played with fashion dolls growing up.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:28 AM on March 19


GoldieBlox is completely unambiguous about being a big company that wants to make money.
posted by staticscreen at 7:18 AM on March 19


The Tensor > Rich music moguls with expensive lawyers strongarming a young startup

Oh come on. A Silicon-valley funded startup appropriated a song for a commercial. Full stop. And they were the first to go on the legal attack.

I work often in the advertising industry. Believe me, the clients do not come to us with a brief to right wrongs. If we can leverage some social meme... bonus. But it's done for profit, not social change.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:45 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


I don't buy the argument that the commercial nature of Goldieblox blocks them from responding to the Beastie Boys, nor that they are not allowed to issue the response in the musical domain. If somebody writes a book you don't like, you're allowed to write a book in response and profit from that, no?

You certainly can write an original work in response to a work you don't like, yes. But Goldieblox stole melody and song structure.
posted by GrapeApiary at 8:02 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


I kinda wish a portion of the proceeds would go to help Jonathan Coulton sue the pants off of Fox.
posted by ericbop at 8:31 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]


Wait minute. The guys who put out "Paul's Boutique" are upset at someone using their work in a parody song? They themselves got rich using others' work.

Yeah but then some law stuff happened

Paul's Boutique was actually a flop when it was released and only got big later. Also there's still ongoing lawsuits involving that album that have yet to be resolved. That's possibly the worst example you could have picked
posted by Hoopo at 8:52 AM on March 19


What's more, the terms of the settlement strike me as obnoxious rather than "class". The Beasties certainly didn't suffer any financial harm from the incident. Why not simply settle for an agreement barring future derivative works, plus legal fees? Rich music moguls with expensive lawyers strongarming a young startup aimed at fostering female engineers into donating money to charities with the same goal reminds me of a bully saying, "Why are you hitting yourself?"

And thus they didn't gain any financial benefit from it as well. Keep in mind always GB misappropriated then filed the first lawsuit, sound more like someone coming up and hitting you and you restraining them and having them stop and apologize before you let them go so they can hit you again.

I'm not a BB fan, and am a big fan of empowering girls so frankly I don't give a rat's ass about the compensation part, that's just small potatoes, but GB really really acted poorly here and trying to cast it as they are the actual victims? yeeeeah, I guess acting poorly is ok as long as it is in a good cause (dubious) then?
posted by edgeways at 9:02 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Because they saw an opportunity to help a cool charity? Sheesh. it's not like the Beasties started it.
posted by agregoli at 9:07 AM on March 19


So, the Beastie Boys nixing the monetary compensation for themselves, and instead making Goldieblox keep to their company ethos encourage STEM in young girls, by sending the money to such charities is not classy? Okay then.
posted by dabitch at 9:20 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]


pwnguin: You mean other than the licensing fees which they would be owed?

IMO, they weren't owed any licensing fees because the GoldieBlox version was fair use because it was a parody.

staticscreen: GoldieBlox is completely unambiguous about being a big company that wants to make money.

As opposed to the Beastie Boys' high-minded, non-commercial production of sexist and homophobic rap songs?

Artful Codger: Oh come on. A Silicon-valley funded startup appropriated a song for a commercial. Full stop. And they were the first to go on the legal attack.

Why would its use in a commercial mean a parody is no longer fair use? Also, I believe the first salvo was a letter from the Beastie Boys' lawyers to GoldieBlox, after which GoldieBlox sought a judgment declaring their song fair use (that is, they sought no money from the Beastie Boys), then the Beastie Boys countersued (seeking damages).
posted by The Tensor at 10:04 AM on March 19


"IMO, they weren't owed any licensing fees because the GoldieBlox version was fair use because it was a parody."

Again, and while I may be rusty here so happy to be corrected, this is not how parody copyright works. You still need to pay the original composer, though you do not have to ask for "permission".

A parody doesn't mean the song is now public domain, the original copyright is still payable. Weird al et al still pay royalties to the original composers.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 10:16 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


Because, as people have noted, parody is not a "get out of copyright free" card. The reason that the parody exemption exists is to allow for critique and commentary of a work. But that protection tends to be very narrow, as many people who misappropriated works to make commentary through parody of other events have routinely found. Furthermore, the commercial aspect also factors in - as this was being used in an advertisement to sell a product, the court was not going to be nearly as lenient.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:30 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


> Why would its use in a commercial mean a parody is no longer fair use?

So any song can be used by any advertiser for free and without permission by simply doing something ironic or observational with it? Right.

The "parody" clause in copyright is meant to shelter new artistic work that comments on the original, and not for-hire work produced expressly for commercials. IANAL but I believe the original copyrights etc are still in force for any use of the parody other than performance.

GoldieBlox is free to produce and distribute legitimate parodies, btw. As soon as they use it in a commercial to promote their product... they are now outside of that protection. And rightly so, don't you think?
posted by Artful Codger at 10:41 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Again, and while I may be rusty here so happy to be corrected, this is not how parody copyright works. You still need to pay the original composer, though you do not have to ask for "permission".

As I understand it, what you've described is the licensing of a cover version of a song, but fair use doesn't require a license. (Otherwise you'd have to seek a license when excerpting a passage in a book review, for example.)
posted by The Tensor at 10:42 AM on March 19


The Tensor, if the "parody" defense was so cut and dry as you expect, why didn't Goldieblox continue into court with the Google-lawyers and settle the case that they started? If they were guaranteed a win, of course they should go on.

Why did they settle out of court?
posted by dabitch at 10:51 AM on March 19


Don't think of the word 'license' as 'permission', it's more of an agreement to pay royalties than an actual 'license'.

Any one can record any song that's previously been recorded without permission, provided it doesn't deviate too much from the original, but still must obtain a 'compulsory mechanical license' to reproduce copies of it. The original composer is paid for every unit sold of the 'cover'.

"Parody" works in the same way, and the judgement comes down to 'is the song a derivative work' or 'parody/satire'. Regardless, the copyright still exists, and the original composer must be paid.

Reproducing a book passage is wholly different than a parody song.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 10:52 AM on March 19


So any song can be used by any advertiser for free and without permission by simply doing something ironic or observational with it? Right.

So, do you use straw men much in advertising?

As soon as they use it in a commercial to promote their product... they are now outside of that protection. And rightly so, don't you think?

Of course not. The fair use exception for parodies is a valuable component of free speech, and even advertisers have free speech. GoldieBlox should be allowed to rebut and ridicule the sexism of the original song even if [gasp] they're also selling a product.

For comparision, BTW, I think GoldieBlox would be in a less defensible position if it claimed its other commercial that uses Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize" is a parody, because the original song isn't (obviously) sexist like "Girls".
posted by The Tensor at 10:57 AM on March 19


Why did they settle out of court?

Because it's cheaper to apologize.
posted by The Tensor at 10:58 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


It is? If they would win their parody case, they could simply have Beastie Boys pay their legal fees, and that would be cheaper.

But since you bring up the "Cum on Feel the Noize" song that was licensed maybe someone pointed out that the inconsistency in their actions was undermining their "but it's totally OK and a parody" case.

(also, when the original song is a send-up on macho-men on an album where every song is a sendup of something, is it then a proper parody when it missed the original songs point?)
posted by dabitch at 11:11 AM on March 19


...is it then a proper parody when it missed the original songs point?

Searching around the web, I see that the Beastie Boys have apologized for homophobia and sexism in their early music. Were they confused about the original song's point, too?
posted by The Tensor at 11:29 AM on March 19


> So, do you use straw men much in advertising?

I'm pointing out the consequences of your stance. Any advertiser could use any song without permission by making it a parody, by your rules.

> The fair use exception for parodies is a valuable component of free speech, and even advertisers have free speech. GoldieBlox should be allowed to rebut and ridicule the sexism of the original song even if [gasp] they're also selling a product.

This isn't about free speech. It's about using copyrighted work without permission to sell a product. As I said, nothing prohibits GB from commenting, or producing "parodies".
posted by Artful Codger at 11:34 AM on March 19


The Tensor, ah you must have found a link I haven't seen where Beastie Boys specifically apologize for the lyrics of the song "Girls". I would love for you to share this link.
posted by dabitch at 11:40 AM on March 19


I'm pointing out the consequences of your stance. Any advertiser could use any song without permission by making it a parody, by your rules.

Any advertiser who can find a song whose message is diametrically opposed to their expressed social goals can then make a parody and not pay for it. For example, a company selling organic food could parody a song about how awesome pesticides are.
posted by The Tensor at 11:45 AM on March 19


Got a full tank and some chips
It was me and my Fritos
And good times with my friends
And a great taste sensation that never, ever ends...

Fritos: A percentage of profits donated to a good cause
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:48 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


> Any advertiser who can find a song whose message is diametrically opposed to their expressed social goals

Uh what?

Ok, I see. If you disagree with the original but are sympathetic to the advertiser's spin on it, it's alright then.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:49 AM on March 19


The Tensor, ah you must have found a link I haven't seen where Beastie Boys specifically apologize for the lyrics of the song "Girls". I would love for you to share this link.

There seem to be plenty of articles about their apology for homophobic lyrics (like this). Many of those articles also mention apologies for sexism, too, but I couldn't find the text of that apology. A comment on this blog post claims that the homophobia apology came after they apologized for misogyny in the liner notes of their greatest hits album, then were called out for not mentioning homophobia. I don't have the album to check, though.
posted by The Tensor at 11:53 AM on March 19


Ok, I see. If you disagree with the original but are sympathetic to the advertiser's spin on it, it's alright then.

Oh, look, another thing I didn't say.
posted by The Tensor at 11:56 AM on March 19


This is getting fighty. Stepping away now.
posted by The Tensor at 11:59 AM on March 19


It's the undertone of your position though, right?

I mean if Monsanto had found some pro-organic song and parodied it for a pesticide ad, without permission, would you rise to their defense as well?

An artist has the right to control their work, no matter whether you, or the entire US consider it misogynistic or sexist or not.

Agreed it's testy. Sorry for picking on you, but I don't think you've thought the position all the way through. I'm done.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:01 PM on March 19


(and, yes we do use strawmen in advertising. As often as possible.)
posted by Artful Codger at 12:06 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


you must have found a link I haven't seen where Beastie Boys specifically apologize for the lyrics of the song "Girls".

Beastie Boy Apologizes for Past Lyrics

MCA's Feminist Legacy

Adam Yauch, Feminist Ally

The Beastie Boys' Feminist Influence

Men Doing Feminist Work: Adam Horovitz
posted by scody at 12:12 PM on March 19 [5 favorites]


In the apology for the entire album "Licensed to Ill" you link above I always assumed they meant "she's crafty".
posted by dabitch at 12:26 PM on March 19


I bought Goldieblox for my daughter. She loves the kit. And she loved the song. That's all that matters to me.
posted by valentinepig at 12:45 PM on March 19


The Tensor: "Clearly a parody of the original song"

It's not immediately clear from me from the lyrics that this is parody. In fact, I think they would have lost this case for the same reason Penny Arcade would have lost their own case: they're reworking an existing material to ridicule an unrelated third party. I see no discourse with the content of the original, other than the repetition of the word "girls".

Combined with the myriad of other factors, it seems this is probably the best outcome Goldieblox could have hoped for.
posted by pwnguin at 5:46 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


"I'm pointing out the consequences of your stance. Any advertiser could use any song without permission by making it a parody, by your rules."

ARG! What is wrong with you? Any advertiser could use any song without permission so long as they passed the four-part fair use test, under which the parody/satire rubric falls! Are you trying to be disingenuous? So yes, if they make it a parody, then they can use it! That's the point of the parody exemption!

"I mean if Monsanto had found some pro-organic song and parodied it for a pesticide ad, without permission, would you rise to their defense as well?"

If they satisfied the test for fair use, yes! If you saw the Dalai Lama make a dumb ad hominem argument, would you defend it?
posted by klangklangston at 6:45 PM on March 19


The point being that they have to pass the test in the first place. Considering that one of the prongs is commercial use, and this use doesn't get more commercial, that was always going to be a climb.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:17 AM on March 20


klangklangston - do you really, really think that the act of making a parody of an existing, copyrighted work gives one licence to use that work (which is not 100% their own) in any way imaginable, without permission from the original creator?

The parody exemption is for freedom of expression, for creation of artistic work and commentary. GB can of course produce parodies all they like. Selling toys isn't the goal of the rule.

If the act of creating a parody was sufficient to give one unrestricted use of the derivative work, then the entire Beatles catalogue for example would have been plundered for commercials long ago. Surely you see this.

Stated another way - if the parody is for commercial or other use not permitted by the original creator, then it fails the test. As pointed out by NoxAeternum.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:05 AM on March 20


Here are the four factors for determining fair use:

- the purpose and character of your use
- the nature of the copyrighted work
- the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market.

To me it's obvious that using the work in a commercial against the express wishes of the original creator would fail the first factor.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:14 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Stated another way - if the parody is for commercial or other use not permitted by the original creator, then it fails the test. As pointed out by NoxAeternum.

Just saying this kind of thing doesn't make it true. I know it feels right to you, but seriously. It's worth just reading the actual court opinions and literature here.
posted by naju at 5:21 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Is there an example of where a "parody" generated expressly for use in advertising was successfully defended from an infringement suit because of passing the parody test?
posted by Artful Codger at 8:14 AM on March 21


I don't want to get into the tedious "this case isn't exactly like that case" conversation, thanks. I'm not doing a back-and-forth at all here, I'm just saying. If you haven't, please feel free to read up and research this point of law. Can commercial advertisements qualify as fair use parody, albeit with a higher bar? The courts (and Supreme Court) have written about this, so we don't have to speculate.
posted by naju at 8:50 AM on March 21


"klangklangston - do you really, really think that the act of making a parody of an existing, copyrighted work gives one licence to use that work (which is not 100% their own) in any way imaginable, without permission from the original creator?"

Artful Codger, do you really, really not understand what I've been saying? Because it doesn't look like it.

"The parody exemption is for freedom of expression, for creation of artistic work and commentary. GB can of course produce parodies all they like. Selling toys isn't the goal of the rule."

Toys can be artistic; commercial intent doesn't annihilate artistic comment.

"If the act of creating a parody was sufficient to give one unrestricted use of the derivative work, then the entire Beatles catalogue for example would have been plundered for commercials long ago. Surely you see this."

1) That doesn't follow. 2) So what?

"Stated another way - if the parody is for commercial or other use not permitted by the original creator, then it fails the test. As pointed out by NoxAeternum."

Sorry, man, you're full of shit. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

"To me it's obvious that using the work in a commercial against the express wishes of the original creator would fail the first factor."

Well, that's why it's pretty obvious that you don't know what you're talking about.

Is there an example of where a "parody" generated expressly for use in advertising was successfully defended from an infringement suit because of passing the parody test?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibovitz_v._Paramount_Pictures_Corp.
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Ok ok.

I was too focused on the specific case of musical parodies, and not the entire spectrum of copyrighted works. And I shouldn't have spouted absolutes. So you have set me straight there.

(Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. has nothing to do with advertising. Why is it relevant here?)

Thanks for the link re Leibovitz vs Paramount. Definitely proves your point.

So let me apply this new-found knowledge. Creating a musical parody means, in most cases, using the original musical work, with altered lyrics. It is appropriating much more of the original work than in the cited Leibovitz vs Paramount case, therefore the first test (the purpose and character of your use) would assume greater importance, and the fact that the "Girls" parody was generated specifically for use in advertising would count more highly against the case for fair use.

Am I on solid ground with this?

(given the above, i still think it's a no-brainer that simply making a parody of a song shouldn't be sufficient licence for unrestricted commercial use)
posted by Artful Codger at 6:45 PM on March 21


"Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. has nothing to do with advertising. Why is it relevant here?"

Because part of the "purpose and character" does involve commercial use — which I think people may be confusing with "use in a commercial," rather than "use for profit" — since you have a lot more leeway if you're not making money with it. But making money alone isn't enough to remove the ability to use a work in a parodic manner. (Further, restricting for "advertising" specifically would be really difficult and isn't really part of the precedent, at least to my understanding.)

"It is appropriating much more of the original work than in the cited Leibovitz vs Paramount case,"

I don't know enough about the recordings to make that determination one way or another. In order to have anywhere near an informed opinion, I'd need to listen to them closely side-by-side, find out whether the Beasties had been sampled or re-recorded entirely, compare the length of the ad to the length of the original song, listen to hear whether or not any parodic elements had been introduced outside of the lyric/vocals change… honestly, that's more work than I'm willing to do for something that essentially doesn't matter now.

"Creating a musical parody means, in most cases, using the original musical work, with altered lyrics."

Sure, but burlesqued versions often change the arrangement too.

"It is appropriating much more of the original work than in the cited Leibovitz vs Paramount case"

Maybe. Question of fact for a judge.

"therefore the first test (the purpose and character of your use) would assume greater importance, and the fact that the "Girls" parody was generated specifically for use in advertising would count more highly against the case for fair use."

Well, kinda, but that's a weird way to think about it. If you have three coin flips, and you've got one that's tails, will the next flip count much more for whether most of them are heads? Sort of, because if it's tails, it's impossible to be mostly heads. But each of the three flips counts the same once they're all known. (But commercial intent means that the court's already skeptical anyway…)

Am I on solid ground with this?

Part of the problem with fair use doctrine and cases is that no one is on solid ground with them pretty much ever.

"(given the above, i still think it's a no-brainer that simply making a parody of a song shouldn't be sufficient license for unrestricted commercial use)"

But that's irrelevant — you're not looking at unrestricted commercial use, you're looking at whether this song is sufficiently parodic in this use.
posted by klangklangston at 10:46 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


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