Girl Fight: The Battle of GoldieBlox vs. Beastie Boys

Last week, the Internet was abuzz about an inspiring new toy company that sought to empower girls to think creatively and fill a void in the science and engineering industries. GoldieBlox released a YouTube video that creatively showed a young group of girls bored of the typical girly, pink, unimaginative toys that are advertised to them every day. The girls then take off to play with a Rube Goldberg-inspired contraption to a parodied version of “Girls,” a Beastie Boys’ hit song.

More Girl Power

It was clear from the overwhelming amount of support for the new toy brand that there is an obvious desire for this type of product in the market. Not all girls want to stay at home playing with dolls all day and many parents are starting to recognize how the toys their child interacts with today could impact their careers in the future. Seeing a brand recognize this need and create the perfect video to communicate that was refreshing.

The Doubled Edged Sword of Virality

But over the weekend, things started to turn sour for GoldieBlox. First, it was rumored – by GoldieBlox – that the Beastie Boys were threatening the toy company for using their music without permission. GoldieBlox “responded” with a lawsuit of their own claiming their version of the song should be considered fair use. How dare the Beastie Boys interfere with a company that just wants to empower young girls to live outside their stereotypes? They must be a bunch of sexist men just as the original “Girls” song depicts.

When the Beastie Boys responded on Monday to the lawsuit by GoldieBlox, it became clear that the toy company was suing preemptively. The Beastie Boys never threatened GoldieBlox and simply wanted to know how and why their music – which is legally protected from being used in advertisements – was used in the GoldieBlox ad. A Beastie Boys representative released this statement:

“There was no complaint filed, no demand letter (no demand, for that matter) when [GoldieBlox] sued Beastie Boys.”


Looks like GoldieBlox just found a way to single-handedly sabotage its own virality.

Many marketers only dream of creating something viral. If that something viral is also useful, then you’ve reached the pot of gold. GoldieBlox did just that but because they did not take all the necessary steps, their success could disappear just as quickly as it came.

Marketers should remember to never take shortcuts in order to launch a piece of content as soon as possible. Either GoldieBlox really believed their parody would be protected under Fair Use, or they just assumed the Beastie Boys might look the other way because of their cause. Copyright laws are fickle and if the Beastie Boys did want to pursue legal action, it would likely be because ignoring it once could cause their copyrights to not hold up later. GoldieBlox should have respected the Beastie Boys by asking permission first. Instead, they’re going down in the books as a major PR don’t.

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