GoldieBlox has settled the suit it commenced (!) against the Beastie Boys regarding use of their song, “Girl”, in its advertising campaign. You’ll recall that GoldieBlox, a toy maker seeking to break down stereotypical societal roles for young girls, had appropriated wholesale all of the music to the song, although it altered the lyrics in significant ways. The video went viral. GoldieBlox then filed a preemptive strike lawsuit seeking to have the court determine that its use of the song was within the parameters of the ‘fair use’ exception to copyright infringement.
The Beastie Boys, their label, publisher, producer and others, didn’t quite see it that way and filed counterclaims against GoldieBlox alleging copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition and misappropriation of publicity rights. Most observers, this one included, believed that GoldieBlox’s use was a clear infringement and that a ‘fair use’ argument would not save it from itself. With the settlement, clearer minds have prevailed.
The settlement resulted in dismissal of the suit on March 17, 2014. According to the Beasties: “The lawsuit between the Beastie Boys and GoldieBlox concerning GoldieBlox’s use of the Beastie Boys song ‘Girls’ has been settled. That settlement includes (a) the issuance of an apology by GoldieBlox, which will be posted on GoldieBlox’s website, and (b) a payment by GoldieBlox, based on a percentage of its revenues, to one or more charities selected by Beastie Boys that support science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for girls.” Obviously, the Beasties were in a bit of a predicament, because while GoldieBlox’s use of ‘Girls’ was clearly infringing, they risked being identified as enemies of the kids (and their target market) by attacking the girl-power toy maker. The settlement reflects this sensitivity by requiring donations to girl-based charities.
Has GoldieBlox put its troubles behind it? The advertising campaign also (arguably) infringes songs by Queen, Daft Punk, Kaskade, Krewella, Avicii, Slam, k. flay and Trevor Guthrie. Thus far, no suits have been filed by these artists asserting copyright infringement but the Beasties’ settlement gives these artists a clear precedent for extracting a settlement. So step up, guys – who wants to get there next?