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The Case Of Beastie Boys v. GoldieBlox May Be Settled--But Who Was The Defendant?

The Beastie Boys “Girls” lawsuit might soon be over – but who’s the real victim in this case? A pretty interesting turn of events came about on Thanksgiving eve with the Beastie Boys “Girls” lawsuit. The short end of it  – the lawsuit might not be happening anymore. The long end of it – regardless of whether this case is over, its made a bit of a mess of how people feel about music sampling – whether for art, or for commercialization.

Goldieblox, a California-based toymaker that describes themselves as “a toy company founded upon the principle of breaking down gender stereotypes” for girls, made a commercial for their toys using the Beastie Boys “Girls” track. Several million youtube views later, and with a heavy dose of online buzz concerning their possible copyright infringement of the track, Goldieblox beat everyone to the punch by making the preemptive strike of suing the Beastie Boys for declaratory relief in a California District Court for the Court to determine whether or not the Goldieblox “Girls” committed copyright infringement.

After the lawsuit was filed, surviving Beastie Boys members Ad-Rock & Mike D decided to write an open letter to Goldieblox to address their position on the lawsuit, and stated:

As creative as (the commercial) is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”

To everyone’s surprise, Goldieblox’s founder Debbie Sterling posted a response to them on Wednesday stating:

We don’t want to fight with you, we love you and we are actually huge fans…when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late great Adam Yauch [who died in 2012] had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours. Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under legal threat from your legal team.

While Goldieblox did pull the viral video from their youtube account, it is has not been verified whether they have actually pulled the case from the Federal Docket since posting their response. In any event, the story has elicited some fairly impassioned opinions about music sampling. Some people have sided rather strongly with the Beasties, pointing out that the Beastie Boys made efforts to gravitate from making music that was derogatory to women after they released “Girls,” and that it was unfair and extremely poor form for Goldieblox to not only violate the wishes of Adam Yauch in his will by using Beastie Boys music in a commercial, but–to make matters worse–by using that particular track. Other people have come down moreso on the Goldieblox side, pointing out the perceived irony of the Beastie Boys taking issue with Goldieblox’s commercial, when the Beastie Boys have built a lucrative and long-standing music career based largely off of sampling other artist’s music–including an ongoing unrelated lawsuit filed against them for samples used in Paul’s Boutique and Licensed to Ill–the album that spawned “Girls” in the first place.

Who do you think was the real victim in this case? Weigh in with your two cents in the comments.

Comments

  • Yza

    Girls is from Licensed To I’ll, not Paul’s Boutique ay.

  • Mita Carriman

    @Yza that’s what the article said: “Licensed to Ill–the album that spwaned “Girls” in the first place?”….Re-read the last line of the article.

  • Aryeh Bernstein

    I think that it’s disingenuous to say that the Beastie Boys’ position is ironic or hypocritical, as in, the “perceived irony of the Beastie Boys taking issue with Goldieblox’s
    commercial, when the Beastie Boys have built a lucrative and
    long-standing music career based largely off of sampling other artist’s
    music.” Those are two totally different things. The Beasties have extensively sampled other artists’ work for artistic purposes and they have welcomed the many other artists who have used their work for artistic purposes, in films, tv, and sampling in many songs. (Another song from Licensed to Ill is extensively sampled in Eminem’s current, charting hit “Berzerk”.) They have consistently opposed letting their work be used for commercial advertisement, to move a product. It’s fine to think that the Beasties’ position is extreme or otherwise wrong and that they should let this company use their song, but there’s nothing ironic or hypocritical about their position.

  • Mita Carriman

    @aryehbernstein:disqus but they made money off of their “art” when they sell records/singles with their sampled music. There’s two sides to this story.

    • phantom stranger

      no…what the creators wish to do with their music is their right! if they have a wish for it not to be used selling corporate owned products especially without their permission that is also their right that should be respected! dont also forget that goldiebox actually sued first!!

  • phantom stranger

    there is no victim in this case! girls is an original composition…and was used without permission and against the wishes of the band FULL STOP. as far as sampling goes yes beastie boys have sampled…to an outsider you may see that as theft simply because you dont understand the culture of digging for records…digging and sampling are about appreciation and much as they are about their usage and the beastie boys usage of samples was extremely creative but probably a mystery to people who have no understanding of being in the studio making art. i think it should also be known that the beastie boys also play instruments and have made plenty of songs without sampling….there is no irony about any of this…people just dont understand