Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail’s marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.
Toy maker GoldieBlox has tried to back away from the fight it started with rap group the Beastie Boys, but that fight is not over.
The group has filed a lawsuit in California against GoldieBlox for copyright infringement after the company used a parody of the song Girls in an advertisement for its toys, then filed a suit against the group to have the parody declared “fair use” and to protect it from legal action.
The ad, posted on YouTube last month, attracted millions of views in a very short period of time with its images of young girls building a Rube Goldberg machine and song lyrics revised with a girl-power message.
The company was contacted by the group’s lawyers to ask about the use of the song. GoldieBlox then went to court in Florida requesting “a declaratory judgment” saying that the video’s use of the song can be defined as “fair use” under the guidelines in copyright laws because it was a parody.
Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA), who passed away in May of 2012, left a will stating that his music should never be used in advertising. The estate of Mr. Yauch is also involved in the current lawsuit.
Following the legal action by GoldieBlox, the surviving members of the Beastie Boys sent an open letter to the company saying they were “impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad.” They also clarified in the letter that no matter how clever, the video was an ad; and they do not want their music used in advertising.
“When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US,” the letter said.
“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,” the company’s founder, Debbie Sterling, said in the letter.
The Beastie Boys are now asking the Northern California court for damages from GoldieBlox, including lawyers’ fees and part or all of the sales resulting from the campaign. They are also asking that GoldieBlox be required to pull its ad from the Web and that the company should be barred from any use of Beastie Boys’ work in future or other infringement.