GoldieBlox vs. the Beasties

It is everywhere, the captivating “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg, & Beastie Boys “Princess Machine” showing the little girls conquering the engineering world.  Should it be?

My engineering father would be thrilled to see girls encouraged to create. I think he was always a bit disappointed that not only did none of his three sons go into engineering, none of his three daughters did either.  We were all encouraged to build and create at will.  He would be proud that not only his daughters, but granddaughters and great-granddaughters are all as capable as their male counterparts.

But that is not the issue here.  Encouraging girls is great, but the issue is copyright infringement.  And the issue isn’t just copyright infringement, but the filing of a lawsuit to defend use of someone else’s material before they have made any public statements about the use of their copyrighted material.

GoldieBlox’s creator Debbie Sterling stated she filed the lawsuit to deflect threats of copyright infringement before the Beastie Boy’s could go public about the use of their song “Girls” in the video.  She states that the song is a parody and therefore allowed under the “Fair Use” provision of the copyright law.

“GoldieBlox created its parody video specifically to comment on the Beastie Boys song, and to further the company’s goal to break down gender stereotypes and to encourage young girls to engage in activities that challenge their intellect, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.”

Not to sell their toys?

The Beastie Boys on the other hand had privately communicated with the company asking about the use of their song.  They let Ms. Sterling know that they do not now and never have allowed use of their works in commercials.    In an open letter on 25 Nov, the Beastie Boys stated that they…….

 “strongly support empowering young girls” .  They go on to say that GoldieBlox’s “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.”  They add that….. “When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”

So the question goes back to is this a parody acceptable under “Fair Use” or a copyright infringement?  Cast your vote here.

While I usually try not to take sides, I find the filing of a lawsuit by the infringing side a push to the side of the copyright holder.   I’d hate for the world to lose this very fun video though, so I thought a fitting end might be that the company would have to remove all information identifying their company, AND post online a “How To” for those looking to reenact the great engineering feats shown in the video, again without any company identifying information.  That would be “empowering girls.”




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