Girls' toy company GoldieBlox has removed a parody of the Beastie Boys song "Girls" after complaints from the band. Roughly a week ago, the company posted a YouTube promotion with a re-recorded, rewritten version of the song sung by a trio of girls as they set a complex Rube Goldberg machine into motion. But the band itself soon reached out to GoldieBlox, saying that the song was an infringement of their copyright, and GoldieBlox preemptively asked a court to declare it legal fair use. What happened next was a public relations firefight from which neither side escaped entirely unscathed, but a few days later, the case seems to have blown over: GoldieBlox has removed the song and said it will drop its court case at the behest of the Beastie Boys.
"We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends."
In the wake of the original filing, the Beastie Boys published an angry open letter, praising the parody but saying that an ad was still an ad, even if it carried a positive message; late Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch's will specifies that his work shouldn't be licensed for commercial use. GoldieBlox, meanwhile, said that it didn't need a license: its video fell under the same fair use exceptions that any parody can be granted. The many copyright analyses done in the following days weren't in total agreement about whether the company could win a suit, but few ruled it out; previous courts have found that it's potentially legal to sell a parody song and to use another copyrighted work as the basis of an advertisement. But the prospect of a court battle between a girl-friendly toymaker and a much-loved group following the directions of their former bandmate wasn't an appealing prospect for fans on either side.
Today, though, GoldieBlox removed its video and replaced it with another using the same footage but a different, instrumental song. It also issued an open letter on its blog:
Dear Adam and Mike,
We don't want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.
When we made our parody version of your song, "Girls", we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to take a song we weren't too proud of, and transform it into a powerful anthem for girls. Over the past week, parents have sent us pictures and videos of their kids singing the new lyrics with pride, building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and declaring an interest in engineering. It's been incredible to watch.
Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.
We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours.
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 threat from your legal team.
We don't want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.
While a fair use parody doesn't need to have the permission or blessing of the original work's creators, the Beastie Boys previously said that GoldieBlox hadn't contacted them prior to the release of the video. Likewise, it still hasn't been established what actions the Beastie Boys' lawyer planned to take; the band characterized it as an inquiry, but the court documents state that the lawyer "threatened [GoldieBlox] with copyright infringement" and called the song a "big problem." The Beastie Boys' publicity manager did not immediately return a request for comment, but with the video off YouTube and the court case apparently withdrawn, it's hard to imagine the controversy isn't pretty much over.