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The Beastie Boys perform during the Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium in London, July 7, 2007. On Wednesday, U.S. toy maker GoldieBox ended a legal row with the group over the use of a parody of one of its songs in an ad. (STEPHEN HIRD/REUTERS)
The Beastie Boys perform during the Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium in London, July 7, 2007. On Wednesday, U.S. toy maker GoldieBox ended a legal row with the group over the use of a parody of one of its songs in an ad. (STEPHEN HIRD/REUTERS)

U.S. toy maker ends legal row over Beastie Boys’ song Add to ...

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.

Small U.S. toy maker GoldieBlox has given up its legal fight with rap group the Beastie Boys over a parody of one of the group’s songs in its new ad.

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Last week, the ad posted on YouTube attracted more than 7-million views in its first six days. It showed young girls building a Rube Goldberg machine in their house to the tune of the Beastie Boys’ “Girls,” with new lyrics criticizing the pink princess imagery that dominates most female-targeted toys.

The company soon got a call from the group’s lawyers. In response, GoldieBlox went to court in Florida asking for “a declaratory judgment” that its video falls under “fair use” guidelines in copyright laws because it was a parody.

Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA), who passed away in May of 2012, stated that he did not want his music ever used in advertising.

This week, 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.” However, they said that it was still an advertisement and that they do not want their music used for that purpose.

On Wednesday the company reversed course, put new music into its video and published an open letter to the group on its website.

In the letter, the company’s founder, Debbie Sterling, claims the team did not know about Mr. Yauch's wishes when they made the ad, that Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA), who passed away in May of 2012, had stated that he did not want his music ever used in advertising. The last line of Mr. Yauch’s will reads: “in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.” (Emphasis his.)

“Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours,” the letter addressed to the Beastie Boys two surviving members states. “Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. 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.”

It’s also a savvy marketing move by GoldieBlox, which is no doubt aware that the prospect of legal battle with such a high-profile group would bring more attention to its online ad campaign. It has given the company the opportunity to first publicly defend its ads and then to further the news story with a letter touting the campaign’s girl-power image and “incredible” impact.

The Beastie Boys’ full letter to GoldieBlox is below:

Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.

As creative as it is, make no mistake, your 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. 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 full letter to Michael Diamond (a.k.a. Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (a.k.a. Ad-Rock) is below:

Dear Adam and Mike, We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.

When we made our parody version of your song, ‘Girls’, we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to take a song we weren’t too proud of, and transform it into a powerful anthem for girls. Over the past week, parents have sent us pictures and videos of their kids singing the new lyrics with pride, building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and declaring an interest in engineering. It’s been incredible to watch.

Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.

We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours.

Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. 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.

We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.

Sincerely, Debbie + Team GoldieBlox

Follow on Twitter: @susinsky

 

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