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Beastie Boys reach settlement with GoldieBlox over “Girls” parody

on March 18, 2014, 12:44am

Following months of legal back-and-forth, Beastie Boys and feminist toy company GoldieBlox have settled a lawsuit stemming from the use of 1987’s “Girls” in a parody ad campaign. As The Hollywood Reporter points out, with both parties agreeing to an undisclosed settlement, the case has been dismissed without prejudice.

Update – 3/19, 10:00am: GoldieBlox has issued a public apology to Beastie Boys:

We sincerely apologize for any negative impact our actions have had on the Beastie Boys. We never intended to cast the band in a negative light and we regret putting them in a position to defend themselves when they had done nothing wrong.

As engineers and builders of intellectual property, we understand an artist’s desire to have his or her work treated with respect. We should have reached out to the band before using their music in the video.

We know this is only one of the many mistakes we’re bound to make as we grow our business. The great thing about mistakes is how much you can learn from them. As trying as this experience was, we have learned a valuable lesson. From now on, we will secure the proper rights and permissions in advance of any promotions, and we advise any other young company to do the same.

Rolling Stone reports that the settlement includes 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.”

The decidedly amicable agreement ends a rather contentious round of litigation that began late last year. Back in November, GoldieBlox released the ad online, featuring a reworked version of the Licensed To Ill standout as a feminist anthem to help promote a line of toys intended to “empower young girls.” GoldieBlox never sought permission for the song, arguing that their cover fell under the Fair Use Doctrine, adding that the song had been “recognized by the press and the public as a parody and criticism of the original song.” When Beastie Boys’ lawyers contacted the company later that month for further clarification, GoldieBlox filed a preemptive lawsuit.

In an open letter released around GoldieBlox’s original suit, Beastie Boys argued that the song did not, in fact, fall under the umbrella protection of Fair Use, noting that the video was merely 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.” Specifically, they cited a clause in the will of the late Adam “MCA” Yauch, which strictly forbid “my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.”

Shortly thereafter, GoldieBox responded to Beastie Boys with their own open letter, writing, “We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans. Though the company still believes the parody falls under fair use, it has removed the advertisement from the Internet. We are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team.” However, Beastie Boys still filed a countersuit, alleging GoldieBlox “acted intentionally and despicably with oppression, fraud, and malice toward the Beastie Boys Parties”, citing a history of previous parody jingles from Queen and Daft Punk songs.

Aside from a fairly interesting back-and-forth, the case sparked an interesting debate over the in’s and out’s of Fair Use. During this year’s South by Southwest, several licensing executives held a panel called Fighting For Their Rights: A Discussion on The Beastie Boys, Fair Use, and Copyright.

Below, relive the ad that started it all:

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