back to article You gotta fight for your copyright ... Beastie Boys sue toymaker over TV ad

Hip-hop heroes the Beastie Boys aren't impressed by toymaker GoldieBlox's climbdown in their rather bizarre copyright dispute – which started when the building-block company used the band's music in an ad. The MCs have now filed a countersuit against the venture-capital-bankrolled toy biz, which sued the Beasties after …


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  1. Tim 11

    I'm with the beasties on this one

    If GoldieBlox had behaved in any reasonable manner, I'm sure the BBs would have been much more receptive to an amiable solution, but for them to file a pre-emptive lawsuit was cynical and appalling. Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

      Except they can't actually as they will soon find out. There's a very, very broad parody exception in the US.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        @Tom ... Re: Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

        How is this a parody?

        I don't disagree with your assessment, but at what point do you draw the line between a parody versus a blatant rip off.

        I'll be honest. If I were in the jury, I'd side with the Beastie Boys.

        They aren't doing a parody, but are selling a product.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Tom ... Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

          Greedo shot first.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Tom ... Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

          yeah, I wouldn't say this was parody, it's reworking a song a little for advertising purposes, it's no weird al.

        3. Malcolm Weir

          Re: @Tom ... Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

          How is this a parody? The words have been changed to convey the exact opposite of the original, which is pretty much the bellwether definition of a parody...

          There's a lot of retro-justification which says that the original version was ironic, therefore there is no change in message (ironic "girls are good for nothing but serving boys" -> non-ironic "girls are good for STEM"), but there's also a fair amount of opinion that the original version wasn't actually ironic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Tom ... Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

            Changing the lyrics to the opposite doesn't make it a parody. Did Weird Al just change the lyrics to the opposite? He made Beat it to Eat it. Addicted to Love was Addicted to Spuds. Mony Mony was Alimony.

            Gangsta's Paradise was Amish Paradise. Another ones bites the dust was Another one rides the bus. Bad was Fat. Weird Al did more, he made the song sound similar but with different lyrics and just not a few changes. Maybe you should have represented Vanilla Ice as all he did was create a parody of Under Pressure.

        4. Mad Chaz

          Re: @Tom ... Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

          This was commercial use, not parody.

          A parody is making fun of something, usually with some kind of reason/message in it.

          This was using a crap version of the music with replaced lyric to sale a product, ie advertising.

          The BB have a really good point that the PREEMPTIVE lawsuit by the toy maker is just a way to get even more publicity out of the affair is proof of ill will.

          I hope they bankrupt the backers of that business.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Take 'em for every penny you can boys.

        But it really isn't a parody though. What they did was more a less a cover song and thus they are subject to penalties. Even if the song was a parody, they are using a song to sell a product. Sure Weird Al and the likes made money on selling a parody song, but music is not the same as a physical tangible product.

    2. Hoosier Newman

      Re: I'm with the beasties on this one

      Agreed - it could also be seen negatively by the courts, and the BB's could file cease and desist, and ask for punitive damages, as well tie them up in the courts so long with no product to sell (because it would be an indeterminate loss of value of their name) Pushing them well past the holiday buying season. Or request a court date as late as MAY 2014.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm with the beasties on this one

        This article doesn't tell the whole story. As I understand it, the Beasties have an agreement that their music will not be used in ads, end of story. As one of the band members has since croaked (MCA, cancer) that agreement will be sort of semi-sacred in the minds of the other members.

        The timeline, I gather, goes something like:

        >Company produces ad

        >Beasties politely (for them) asks that the ad be withdrawn

        >Company launched pre-emptive suit against the Beasties

        >Beasties launch counter-suit

        My sympathy is wholly for the Beasties in this case. GoldieBlox have acted like dicks throughout and have gained lots of free publicity because of it. If someone nicked my stuff and then launched the lawyers at me first I'd be pretty pissed off too. Hope they win.

    3. Gav

      Re: I'm with the beasties on this one

      "I'm sure the BBs would have been much more receptive to an amiable solution, but for them..."

      You seem to know a lot about the Beastie Boys own thoughts on the matter. Things they have neither said or hinted. Are you just guessing?

      1. Malcolm Weir

        Re: I'm with the beasties on this one

        The BB's have stated that no-one may ever use any of their songs in commerce, and in particular Adam Yauch made that a condition, and he's dead so can't change his mind.

        So anyone claiming that they would have been more receptive is, bluntly, wrong.

  2. Dr Stephen Jones

    Parody exception

    I can't wait to start selling my Dan Brown "parodies" - which are a Dan Brown book with a cock and two balls scribbled on the front page in biro. It's a parody, see? A transformative work! So you can't catch me.

    Once a parody exception to copyright has been introduced then it will be impossible to stop anyone doing this. Draw a moustache on Nigella - and sell your own Nigella books. They're a parody too.

    Give it a year or two of lawsuits and this will be quietly repealed, with the fucktard civil servants who brought it in retiring nicely on a million pound final salary (oops - "Career Average") pension.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Parody exception

      You haven't seen the advert, then?

      All of the lyrics were changed, and while not exactly poetry that could launch a thousand ships it's still got more complex lyrics than many modern songs.

      If they'd just sampled 'Girls' then yeah, it'd be wrong. But redoing it completely from the ground up, flipping a lot of the sexist stuff in it (or, rather, being more obvious in it's anti-anti-female message) including doing an advert that's not a blatant rip-off of the original music video? IF they hadn't sued first I'd support them in this.

      As an example, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a different work, because it presented a new take on the original story. Pride and Prejudice with a cock and balls scrawled over Mr Darcy's crotch wouldn't be because the content hasn't changed at all. Even a cock-and-balls on every page wouldn't be a different work as the story is the same.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Parody exception

        Even a cock-and-balls on every page wouldn't be a different work as the story is the same.

        No, but if you'd been to right college you could call it conceptual art and sell it for a fortune ...

      2. P Saunders

        Re: Parody exception

        except maybe that pride and prejudice is in the public domain and anyone can do anything they like with it now. Not a great example there.

        1. rh587 Silver badge

          Re: Parody exception

          "except maybe that pride and prejudice is in the public domain and anyone can do anything they like with it now. Not a great example there."

          "Barry Potter" or "The Hunger Pains" as published by the Harvard Lampoon, not to mention "The Wobbit", which has managed to outdo a small (but very fine) Southampton pub in not getting sued for blatantly riding on the back of the franchise.

          Massive franchises parodied for commercial gain by HL.

          No reason why a parody song could also not be used for commercial purposes whatsoever. Al Yankovic has built a career from doing it (although he always get permission as a personal rule, but he doesn't need to).

          Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music found commercial parody can fall under fair use. It does not automatically do so, but the argument's "it's an advert, there's the problem" do not hold water.

          How Goldieblox have handled themselves with pre-emptive lawsuits and the rest is pretty dodgy, but parody for commercial usage? Go nuts.

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            @rh587 wrt: Campbell vs Acuff-Rose Music

            "Commercial use" is too broad a banner here.

            In Campbell vs Acuff-Rose Music, the parody itself was a commercial product, In this case, the parody does not exist as a standalone work -- it exists only within the advert, and the advert as a whole is not a parody, and the product that it is selling is not a parody.

            If the song has no existence outside of the advert, the song isn't likely to be considered a "work" at all -- consider that US courts have already established precedent stating that the tune and lyrics of a song are a single work, so both composer and lyricist receive royalties for (and can block the use of) instrumental versions and lyric sheets.

            That's what the BB's lawyers will be arguing, and I think they'll win.

            1. Malcolm Weir

              Re: @rh587 wrt: Campbell vs Acuff-Rose Music

              Utter tripe: "if the song has no existence outside the advert"!

              You may want to check up on copyright law.

              The fact that the motive behind the creation of the work was for commercial gain (selling other stuff) as opposed to commercial gain (selling records) is only a minor consideration, at least per the US Supreme Court. To consider otherwise would be ridiculous, because you would have to judge the motives of each creator.

              1. The Indomitable Gall

                Re: @rh587 wrt: Campbell vs Acuff-Rose Music

                Utter tripe? {citation required}

                There have been various cases in the US which have established that two things that might be considered individual "works" are only considered individual works if they have been conceived independently. I'm thinking mostly lyrics and tune here -- there have been several cases where lyricists have claimed royalties for instrumentals, because the tune is merely a part of the "work": the song.

                So while I am arguably wrong, I am not undoubtedly wrong. If I was a lawyer (I'm not) and you were a lawyer (I'm pretty sure you're not) and we were arguing against each other in court, I hope you wouldn't address my arguments with "utter tripe". (Actually, scratch that, it would be nice for my opponent to be found in contempt...)

                I'm not against people proving I'm wrong, but proving requires proof....

      3. Dr Stephen Jones

        Re: Parody exception

        Pride and Prejudice with a cock and balls scrawled over Mr Darcy's crotch wouldn't be because the content hasn't changed at all.

        Pride and Prejudice is out of copyright.

        You don't understand what a copyright exemption means - even though the clue is in the name. It is a specific use of a copyright work where those rights cannot be asserted. Think of it as being "out of copyright" for that particular use. Your test is irrelevant because the copyright holder cannot apply it.

        So my Dan Brown example is accurate. I can do anything i want if I call it a parody.

        Welcome to the real world!

  3. SolidSquid

    Not entirely sure how I feel about this. If the Beastie Boys had just sued to begin with then I'd be more on the side of GoldieBlox, but considering GoldieBlox apparently lied about the Beastie Boys suing them as a way to drum up more attention for their product I'm not entirely sympathetic now that the Beastie Boys have decided to take up that suggestion.

    Of course, this is completely irrelevant to whether there's a valid parody exception here, which there might well be. I just can't help but feel GoldieBlox is being a bit scummy in the way they're handling this

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "GoldieBlox has instead developed an advertising campaign that condones and encourages stealing from others."

      Really - how does it do that? At the worst surely this is just copyright infringement?

    2. Tom 13

      @ SolidSquid

      Both sides are playing a PR game. Having once been twice embroiled in trademark disputes for a non-profit, I can tell you that the lawyer always writes the letter to the accused and always mentions court action - even if you as the rights holder LIKE what they did. If the accused responds appropriately (sorry, what can we do to make this right?) you can negotiate an amicable deal. In the first instance the accused did so and we said all they needed to do was note we were the owners of the trademark. We may have charged them a nominal $1 fee at the lawyers insistence. Something about needing an actual exchange of monetary value before the agreement became enforceable.

      1. Tommy Pock

        Re: @ SolidSquid

        PR Game? It's not a game! The Beastie Boys are set to lose¹ hundreds of pounds through having their forgotten music exposed to the public like this!


    3. Chad H.

      Yeah, Im on the fence too. This kinda product is needed to blast some of the fixed gender roles we still haven't fully exterminated... so on that basis I think it sounds like a good product, and the song seems to be a perfect fit... I want them to be successful at least in selling the product.

      But they used the song without permission. thats a deal breaker.

      I really hope they do settle in some way that protects the beastie boys rights, and get this product out in the hands of impressionable kids.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "This kinda product is needed to blast some of the fixed gender roles we still haven't fully exterminated."

        People get FAR less disturbed by seeing girls doing engieering stuff than they do seeing boys playing with dollies.

        Seriously. Girls doing mechano/lego has _always_ been "OK" - but if little bobby starts playing with the "girly stuff" then hands and eyebrows are raised in horror.

    4. Rampant Spaniel

      Hmm so the toymaker parodied (seemingly legally) a BB song. BB wrote to them and said we don't like it please stop. The toymaker then sued BB 'preemptively', BB then sued to toymaker.

      All over something that is legally protected (parodies). I can however see the logic in only allowing parodies for non commercial use, i.e. a comedy sketch not an advert \ commercial.

      This is also a superb example of why lawyers should all get 24 hours WOO.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems like this advert is dual function... paradoxical art and a commercial advert. So perhaps, it fails on the second account.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Seems like this advert is dual function... paradoxical art and a commercial advert. So perhaps, it fails on the second account.

      This seems to resonate with my opinion. It would seem to me that the parody exception probably wasn't intended to include commercial exploitation in the way that this clearly is. If that were the case, then using any copyrighted work for any reason without permission would be enabled merely by taking the piss out of it.

      If parody is the prime consideration, then I can see the value in an exemption. However, if commercial exploitation is the primarily aim, and the parody is a mechanism used purely to avoid copyright licensing, then that seems pretty cynical to me.

      1. Franklin

        In the US, parody is still permissible use even if the parody is for profit (see the novel "The Wind Done Gone") or for advertising (see the Leslie Nielsen parody of the Energizer Bunny in TV ads for Coors beer).

        The US parody exception to copyright law is VERY broad, and is not Invalidated just because the parody is used for advertising or marketing.

        Of course, there's a lovely bit of irony here; the Beastie Boys copied the melody from that particular song from another song, and prevailed on "fair use" grounds.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's my thoughts...

    Parody is no problem, Attempting to profit from that parody by using as part of an advertising campaign is where the problem lies.

    Especially when the subject of the parody is well known for not wanting his work to ever appear in advertising.

    1. Cliff

      Pretty much my thoughts too

      Nothing wrong with parody, pastiche is a substantial part of humour and culture and should remain so. Pantomimes have made jokes based on well known adverts for hundreds of years, for instance, and jesters would act in parody.

      What I think is wrong in this case is that the parody is arguably using over 50% of the original and using it as the main part of their commercial project.

      What I think is wronger in this case is that some cokehead ad execs will be congratulating themselves on their clever viral campaign and taking credit for mostly theft. Fuck 'em.

      1. JeevesMkII

        Re: Pretty much my thoughts too

        Since almost all parody produced today is ultimately for commercial gain that seems like a pretty silly argument. I never heard anyone complaining when Spitting Image were producing their parody albums doing exactly what the Beastie Boys are complaining about here.

        In fact, I think this is far more defensible than actually selling the song itself. It's unarguably transformative, has absolutely zero impact on the commercial value of the original, uses only a small subset of the original work, and considering the opposite intent of the new lyrics it probably qualifies as parody (in this case of the song, rather than the artist.)

        1. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: Pretty much my thoughts too


          "Since almost all parody produced today is ultimately for commercial gain that seems like a pretty silly argument."

          I think the difference here is that a parody is a work of art that has commentary or political expression as its primary reason for being.

          This song has no existence independent of the advert, therefore its primary reason for being is clearly to be part of the advert and to sell a product that is not itself parody.

          If the song had been written independently, and they'd picked it up to use in the advert after the fact, they'd maybe have a case, but that's not what happened, so its a rip-off.

          1. Malcolm Weir

            Re: Pretty much my thoughts too

            Your entire argument fails on an baseless argument: that you believe that the "creative motive" matters. Plus the fact is that the advertisement _as an advertisement_ has a "commentary or political expression" as its core: the (socially sound) idea that STEM for women is A Good Thing. Despite your pontification, in the USA corporations have free speech rights, and corporations can be argued to be ALWAYS selling something whenever they speak, so the entirety of your argument fails.

        2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Pretty much my thoughts too

          JMII: Do you really think the "original intent" of the Beastie Boys Girls was to be sexist? That it was a sexist song?


          Maybe this parody thing is more complicated than any of us imagined!

          1. JeevesMkII

            Re: "original intent"

            @A.O No, but unless you seriously want a court case to turn on whether a jury of Americans thinks a joke is funny, I'd stop asking awkward questions.

        3. Malcolm Weir

          Re: Pretty much my thoughts too


          And the other factor that has many folk all riled up was, equally, justifiable: the rights agents for the Beastie Boys sent a threatening "cease and desist" letter, and in my world if you're not prepared to deal with the consequences of your threats, you shouldn't make them. In this instance, the toy company went to court to get a ruling that they were NOT infringing, which seems like the appropriate response to threats based on the accusation that they were.

          Plus, when the toy company DID back down, what did the people who issued the threats do? They filed suit.

      2. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Pretty much my thoughts too

        "wronger" ?

        1. Cliff

          Re: Pretty much my thoughts too

          Yes, 'wronger', playing with the language. It was deliberate, taking its template from the paragraph it preceded. Of course 'wrong' is an absolute, which is why it's a nonsense to '-er' it. The glory of the English language is that you can play with like this.

          I'm no Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll of course, but grant me some space!

  6. TheProf


    Well, I like The Beastie Boys, and I also like companies that produce building "blox" in pastel colours designed to encourage girls to become engineers even if they do have illustrations on the box depicting girls as Disneyifed wide-eyed demi-princesses, but which is better?

    There's only one way to find out.


    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: There's only one way to find out.

      Also: Googlefight.

      Beasties: 27,700,000

      Goldiblox: 3,770,000

      in case anyone's interested.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Seems the company have been pretty shonky in the way they acted but there is a certain irony in a group that prided themselves on being anti-establishment and subversive* when they started out have become increasingly 'establishment' in their outlook.

    *just how anti-establishment and subversive the BBs were in the 80s is a whole different argument

    Fwiw parody or otherwise the company have appropriated the BB 'music' for commercial gain so I'd reckon the BBs have a good case.

    Beer because its Friday obviously!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      prided themselves on being anti-establishment and subversive

      Well, as you imply in your footnote, they were about as anti-establishment as The Macc Ladds, Goldie Lookin Chain or any other "comedy" pop band back in the 1980s. Then they realised that their frat boy humour wasn't going to translate into a long term music career, so they set about becoming a white Run DMC. Of course, having relatives high up in the major label music business helped. So, not anti-establishment or subversive at all.

      1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        Where would we be without parody...

        Do you know, I heard a story that those Toastie Boys stayed up 'til quarter past twelve!

        - Morris Minor and the Majors - No Sleep 'till Bedtime.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Sorry, what makes them "increasingly 'establishment'"?

      The fact that they're trying to maintain a personal artistic decision on how and when their music gets used? As opposed to that typical "anti-establishment" tendency to license it out for big spondoolicks to all comers for their TV spots?

      Or maybe it's the fact that they're using the legal process to seek remedy rather than kicking down the offender's door and defecating in his fireplace?

      Plenty of anti-establishment figures have used the judicial system to protect their anti-establishment stance. Those that don't aren't just "anti-establishment", they're anarchists. And anarchists are often just thoroughly antisocial selfish people by another name.

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    It seems an odd definition of "parody"

    It's not parody as I see it; it's simply taking someone's tune and changing the words to promote their business and commercial products and hoping to get away with that. To then sue the creators of the original song because they weren't happy with that takes the biscuit.

    I am not entirely sure on what principle the EFF seems to think this is okay. Perhaps they have re-branded and one of the F's now stands for Freetard? I am sure some would say it simply reflects the 'we can take anything we want, and fuck you' attitude which has been attributed to Google.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: It seems an odd definition of "parody"

      But in the US that is pretty much the legal definition of parody because humor itself is always in the eyes of the beholder.

      Maybe it isn't fair. Maybe the law ought to be changed. But at the moment it is the law. And that's all the principle the EFF needs.

      Honestly, I've always been uncomfortable with this definition. That same group I referenced earlier has held a major event every year. And every year one of the most popular program items rests entirely on that definition. That program item is fan parody music videos. The group pays the fee for the music. The videos are all remixes cuts of various videos to the music, sometimes for humor, sometimes for drama. But the only thing original in it is the arrangement of the clips to the music. You'd probably say that isn't earning the group or the fan artists money. But legally that doesn't matter if it dilutes the value of the original work. And when the non-profit has a multi-million dollar budget they are quite actionable in court. And yeah, that one of the things I'm happy I no longer have to worry about since I'm no longer affiliated with the group. But while I was there I became intimately familiar with some of the finer points of this US law.

  9. PassingStrange

    (Non-commercial) parody MUST be protected

    This is only needed at all because parodies have come under increasing attack in the UK courts in recent years; for most people for a long while I think it's been fairly clearly understood that a parody of something was different to breach of copyright, and not open to challenge. Now people are trying to erode that, so it needs formally codifying.

    Parody is a tradition as old as human culture, and a vital tool for deflating the pompous and the powerful, It most certainly needs to be preserved and protected, and if that needs legislation, so be it. And whilst it would need defining, in real terms I suspect most of us have a fairly clear idea what constitutes parody, and what is simple rip-off. (For example, using someone's recognised song for commercial purposes as in this case, with different words chosen to fit your marketing needs, clearly isn't parody - it's a rip-off and an attempt to avoid copyright fees. Nor, to quote a previous poster's example, would simply changing the cover of a book and selling it otherwise unchanged make the whole thing a parody - although I suspect if it was well done, people would accept the modified *cover* as a parody of the original).

    1. McBread

      Re: (Non-commercial) parody MUST be protected

      For-profit parody should be protected too. The import test is "Is it satirical parody?". Is it Imitating something to make a political/social point, or just to sponge off someone else's fame/notoriety?

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: (Non-commercial) parody MUST be protected

        "Is it Imitating something to make a political/social point, or just to sponge off someone else's fame/notoriety?"

        Good luck finding a way to make that test work! Essentially, parody only works if the parodied person/work is well known to the target audience, so there is always the element of using the fame/notoriety of the original.

        Also, on the actual topic of the article - I didn't know the Beastie Boys were still an actual group until now. Are they using the advert, and now litigation, to get themselves onto the radar again. Troll begets troll?

        1. Hoosier Newman

          Re: (Non-commercial) parody MUST be protected

          Sorry but in the US the BB's were quite well known, not just in the Hip Hop genre, but played well on the radio and MTV. Before the UK got MTV. So it notoriety had already been established before this popped up. Let it be known that they are not trying for a comeback, nor do they wish their music be used in ads.

          Paid or Unpaid ads.

          If you have no knowledge of the matter, who is the troll?

          1. Intractable Potsherd

            Re: (Non-commercial) parody MUST be protected @ Hoosier

            I'm not quite sure what your point is. I simply said that I didn't know they are *still* a group - i.e that they still acted as a concerted entity. I haven't heard from them for years, and this brought them to my attention again, after not hearing of them for years (but there is no reason I would have - their style was never what I was into), and I was mildly surprised that "The Beastie Boys" still have a group identity.

            Indeed, my entire point was that they had sufficient recognition for any parody to be successful, back in the day. So have a downvote for lack of reading comprehension.

            On the point of artists wanting/not wanting their stuff used in ads, I find myself in two minds - one says that the attitude is incredibly precious, but I hate it when one of my favourite groups allows their music to be used for selling stuff (ELO's "Mr Blue Sky" was my most recent disappointment).

  10. Smallbrainfield


    they expressly said a while ago that they didn't want any of their songs used in adverts.

  11. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Manipulative company

    With a daughter (and a son) I'm keen to get engaged with science and engineering, I'm all for products that interest and excite children. I can understand the drive behind the original advert, but the further this saga goes on, the more I feel manipulated. Finding the product is poorly reviewed makes it worse - don't tell me that they've painted some tat pink and sold it to me on the back of 'enpowerment'.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Manipulative company

      " don't tell me that they've painted some tat pink and sold it to me on the back of 'enpowerment' " - important lesson for your children.

      Adverts lie.

  12. bigtimehustler

    Parody is fine when done non profit or for journalistic purposes, its not fine to do a parody for free when your using it in a commercial setting to further sell your stuff. It seems clear to me that a licensing deal makes sense here as money will be made or is expected to made off the back of the parody. That is, after all, its sole reason for inclusion here.

    1. Tom 13

      @ bigtimehustler

      Either parody is fine or it isn't fine. As soon as you try to differentiate profit vs non-profit you get into regulating speech for political purposes. Because political purposes are what define what is and is not non-profit. I've been in and out of US non-profits for the better part of 30 years. Helped form one when I was 17, and another when I was in my 20s. Even worked as a paid employee for one for about three and a half years. They all dance around not admitting they are political, but they are. The only thing that makes it even sort of okay is that everybody knows everybody else is lying.

  13. Jonathan Lancaster

    Of course it's parody; updating the lyrics to provide comment on the original is almost the definition of parody. Fair Use doesn't exclude parody for commercial purpose.

  14. RegW

    VW Badge

    Let me get this right: the Beastie Boys are upset that someone has stolen from them?

    1. drexciya

      Re: VW Badge

      No, the Beastie Boys are opposed to any sort of commercial use of their songs. That's something the offending company could/should have known from the start. Note that this type of thing is a matter of principle; lots of bands earn money by having commercials use their songs.

      Now, Goldieblox took things one step further, by pre-emptively suing the original artist. With that, you've lost any semblance of sympathy in my book. The suit by the Beastie Boys points to this as being done on purpose, to generate publicity and I tend to agree. It's just showing off the company's true colors I guess.

      1. Malcolm Weir

        Re: VW Badge

        It's usually better to present the actual facts, rather than fabricate a narrative. In this instance, the Beastie Boys sent a "cease and desist" letter threatening a lawsuit (and it did NOT have an "unless you do this we will sue" modifier). Given that the Beastie Boys opened with a piece of attempted thuggery, it is disingenuous in the extreme to then go wailing about how mean it was of the people they attempted to thug for those people to ask a court to rule on the validity of the claims in the attempted thuggery.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: VW Badge

          -Malcolm, I surmise that the "cease and desist" letter also demanded a payment for damages and attorney's fees. That is generally how things proceed when the facts look pretty one sided. The BB's legal counsel is right to do this as the company has brought attention to their product with both the pirated song and via the controversy that theft engendered. The company being sued should settle up fast and drop the whole mess as quickly as possible. If the BB's attorney's can get a jury (or judge) to rule that the offense was "willful" the damages could climb into the millions. Settling out of court would be much cheaper. Most copyright cases are settled out of court, which is why it's hard to find as much case law as one would expect.

          If the Beastie Boys don't license their songs for commercials, maybe the company should have approached Motley Crue to use "Girls, Girls, Girls" instead.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: VW Badge


  15. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    Leecher's Charter so creators like the Beasties would lose control over how their work is used

    Random "creators" that no-one heard about are losing control over their totally innovative Randian Intellectual Property: End of Western Civilization soon! After this message....

  16. Irongut

    Dead man's wishes

    The important point that is being missed here is the cynical trampling over the wished of a dead man. The will of the dead Beastie specifically states he did not want his work to be used in an advert.

    Whether the advert has any merit or is a parody makes no difference, you don't do things like that unless you want to be considered immoral scum.

    1. DN4

      Re: Dead man's wishes

      > Whether the advert has any merit or is a parody makes no difference

      IMO the right to parody and generally make fun of anything whatsoever is far more important than any dead man's wishes. Those who try to impose rules what we may and may not make fun of are usually exactly those who do not understand humour at all.

  17. Putters

    Parody or B******disation ?

    Parody or Bastardisation ?

    B******disation - practically any ad that takes a classic track, cuts and pastes in the company name where it sounds similar to the original lyrics and pens some trite crap to string it all together with the original tune (Evergreen lawn treatment is particularly and painfully guilty of this)

    Parody - the Barron Knights spring immediately to mind.

    All together now - "There's a dentist in Birmingham ... "

  18. Hoosier Newman

    Parody vs Advert

    The differences in a parody is that is usually within the content of a structured show, or if it is alone, it does not promote nor sell any real product. Plus the product would be a fictitious product and fictitious manufacturer as in all other parody's. Also that a parody does not pay for air time. That makes it an advert/ad.

    For this to be a parody, it would have to remove the products name, the manufacturer name, and would have to be included with in the context of another show, and not within paid advertisement.

    When any of the item above is done, it becomes a commercial for an actual product. Rewording a song, does not circumvent the copyright of the song with include music and lyrics.

  19. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    For those pointing out that the lyrics are different: song = lyrics + music. Without the music, all you have is poetry.

    However, what Goldiblox have done isn't "parody", because they haven't actually changed the intent of the original song. All they've done is change a more subtle lyric into a 9lb. lumphammer that bludgeons the 'message' into the listener with all the grace and elegance of being repeatedly struck in the face by a Steinway grand piano.

    Had they stuck with the original lyrics, the ad would have actually worked better, with the visuals clearly contrasting with the words. But the Beastie Boys made it clear years ago that they did not wish to have their music used for such purposes. At the very least, Goldiblox's failure to simply ask another artist – it's not as if the Beastie Boys' song is the only one ever written on the subject – instead of violating the last wishes of a dead man speak volumes about the company's management.

    (And I speak as someone who was never into the Beastie Boys, so I'm not exactly biased here.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Not according to The Alan-Parsons Project.

  20. Curtis


    What I find amazing here is the idea that the creators of a work have no say in how it's used.

    If this were simply a matter of copyright, then yes, you could claim parody. However, in 2012 when Adam Yauch passed away his will specifically mentioned "in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes." At the time, Forbes Magazine had an article on if this was even legal, which I'm guessing was the source of the brilliant idea to push it.

    At the same time, GoldieBlox did not significantly change the tune, merely moving it up the scale. Given the response, I think it's fair to say that none of the band members gave permission for it's use. And the companies own actions show that they thought that what they were doing might be illegal, hence the "sure them before they sue us" mentality.

    This breaks down to the copyright law in it's most base for. Does the creator of a work control it's distribution and destiny. If you listen to the freetards and their idea that "data can't be stolen, only copied", then the logical conclusion is that no, the creator has no say in how a work is distributed or used after they create it.

    OTOH, it's not that the creator in this case refused GoldieBlox the ability to use it. They have consistently refused ANY request. Since they have refused all requests, and have a published history of doing so, then it would be reasonable to assume that they would also refuse "GB". At that point, using it anyway, is a gross violation of the creator's rights, as spelled out in the law.

    Suing someone because you wish to violate their rights is just a kick in the nuts.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Intent

      Curtis,Copyright law in the US and those countries that adhere to the Berne Convention absolutely does give a copyright holder to decide how their work is used. If the creators of the work have sold or assigned their copyright, they no longer have any rights to that work.

      Parody is not a valid argument for Fair Use if the parody is created to advertise a product.

      Adam's wish that any music his heirs hold copyright to that he created while alive not be used for commercial advertising would make an interesting case. I have a suspicion that if the heirs wanted to, they could disregard those wishes and license to their hearts content. I'd love to see his will and have a probate and intellectual property attorney give their views. I'm not sure if a copyright can be entailed like that.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Both win

    I had never hear of GoldieBlox before. And I didn't know that the Beastie Boys still existed (I listened to them about 20 years ago!). So good PR for both. Everybody wins. Now they can settle for something amicable.

  22. Malcolm Weir

    @curtis, Actually your inference is bass-ackwards: the reason for seeking a declarative judgment (as Goldieblox did) is to shutdown merit-less litiguous thuggery. No-one with a clue would go to court seeking a declaration that they were NOT infringing, unless they seriously believed that they weren't.

    Therefore the fact that Goldieblox filed suit for declaratory relief (i.e. they didn't ask for anything from the Beastie Boys at all, all they asked for was a ruling that they did not infringe) is strong evidence that they believe that they do not infringe AND case law is on their side (which, incidentally, it is).

    Their alternative is to sit around waiting to see if the (Beastie Boys) rights agents would sue, which (if they were smart) they would take their time over, because they (the agents) want to maximize the settlement, and the best way to do that is to sit back and wait until the toy company has sold a gazillion things, and then argue that the BB's are entitled to a percentage of each.

    What really happened here is that some lawyer acting for the Beastie Boys got called on their tactics. And the fact that the BB's have now sued Goldieblox even though GB has done asked of them is more evidence that the BB's don't give a flying wossname about anything other than trousering pots of cash. So no change there, then.

  23. silent_count

    I hope GoldieBlox get rich

    Soon after, you'll be able to buy my GoldieBloxes* from your favourite toy store.

    * Which will be a not-quite-identical parody of the original GoldieBlox product. And, for good measure, I'll preemptively sue GoldieBlox in a cynical attempt to gain some publicity.

    1. Decius

      Re: I hope GoldieBlox get rich

      Make the GoldieBloxes better, it isn't too hard. There's no such thing as a good, cheap, science toy.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beastieboys rule

    If i remember correctly, the Beastie Boys stated years ago that nothing they've created will ever be used for advertising. That's why, I suspect, they're fighting this. Its not some jumped up law suit, they are fighting for their principles, something they've always done rather well. They deserve significant respect for this, in my view.

  25. Mage

    Duracell vs Energiser

    You can parody the Pink Bunny.

    Duracell lost, even though Energiser was basically copying the Duracell bunny, cos the Judge and Jury thought it amusing?

    1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: Duracell vs Energiser

      If Wikipedia is to be believed, Duracell lost the 'Bunny' case because they'd failed to renew their trademark.

  26. Decius

    How to do it right:

    First, get BB permission to remix Girls, and write and produce !Girls. They probably won't have a problem with that, since the irony of the original isn't very obvious to begin with.

    !Girls is now yours, and you can use it in your advertisements without further reference to the BB, so they can't deny use based on the non-advert rules.

  27. lukewarmdog

    not just the beasties but..

    Seems they have already pulled the BB add, privated a bunch of other ads they were hoping to use on YouTube.

    I'm a bit surprised that a- they're trying to use YouTube to sell a product.. but b- that YouTube allowed the music. The last time I thought "I know, I'll put a bit of that behind this hastily thrown together powerpoint" it told me that EMI wouldn't let me, mere seconds later. Yet Goldieblox get a dozen videos on there containing other peoples content?

  28. Stevie


    But ... gangsta ethics ...

  29. Dr.S

    In Sweden, our copyright case-law has for a long, long time included a dynamic doctrine for allowing exemptions for parody and satire. In parallell with the fair-use doctrine of the US, it allows quite far-ranging liberties when it comes to artistic and political criticism of the works of others, but commercial actors that want to use others' works to sell a product will not be able to avail themselves to such exemptions. I sincerely doubt the proposed UK exemption will stray very far from this mold.

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