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You gotta fight for your copyright ... Beastie Boys sue toymaker over TV ad

Countersuit against 'parody' demands damages from upstart GoldieBlox

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Hip-hop heroes the Beastie Boys aren't impressed by toymaker GoldieBlox's climbdown in their rather bizarre copyright dispute – which started when the building-block company used the band's music in an ad.

The MCs have now filed a countersuit against the venture-capital-bankrolled toy biz, which sued the Beasties after appropriating their material for a TV commercial – and the rappers want damages arising from the venture's stunt.

GoldieBlox, which encourages young lasses to get into engineering, used the Beastie Boys tune Girls in the ad, and argued the video was a parody and thus shielded from copyright infringement claims.

The toy company changed the original track's sarcastic lyrics "Girls, to do the dishes / Girls, to clean up my room / Girls, to do the laundry" to "Girls, build a spaceship / Girls, code the new app / Girls, that grow up knowing they can engineer that" for the commercial.

The Beasties' lawyers contacted the toymaker to point out that the hip-hop stars hadn't allowed their song to be used in the advert, straight or otherwise. GoldieBlox immediately sued the band in a preemptive strike, but then backed down.

Now, in their countersuit filed this week, the Beasties alleged San Francisco-based GoldieBlox "achieved and continues to achieve additional publicity, press coverage, and, upon information and belief, greater sales of its products, as a direct result of the Beastie Boys' perceived affiliation with the GoldieBlox advertisement.”

The copyright-infringement lawsuit, filed in Oakland, California, went on to claim:

Unfortunately, rather than developing an original advertising campaign to inspire its customers to create and innovate, GoldieBlox has instead developed an advertising campaign that condones and encourages stealing from others.

The band claims GoldieBlox has benefited hugely from the advertisement. The very day that the Beasties' counsel first contacted GoldieBlox, the startup sued the band, famous for Intergalactic, Fight for your right and other tracks.

"The real target of the GoldieBlox lawsuit, I’m quite sure, is not the Beastie Boys. Instead, it’s the set of investors who are currently being pitched to put money into a fast-growing, Stanford-incubated, web-native, viral, aggressive, disruptive company with massive room for future growth — a company which isn’t afraid to pick fights with any big name you care to mention," opined Reuters journalist Felix Salmon.

"Because in Silicon Valley, people will always prefer to invest in that kind of company, rather than in a toy company whose toys, in truth, aren’t actually very good."

The Google-sponsored "digital rights" group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has backed GoldieBlox, suggesting the telly ad "serves the public interest by advancing political criticism and debate regarding sexist stereotypes about girls and engineering".

Meanwhile, the UK is on the verge of implementing an exemption for "parody" in its copyright law overhaul - essentially creating a kind of Leecher's Charter so creators like the Beasties would lose control over how their work is used. Expect mayhem. ®

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