The Beastie Boys vs. GoldieBlox

Last week, everyone on the Internet watched the newest ad for Goldieblox, the company that sells engineering toys targeted at girls. In the most recent video, little girls build a Rube Goldberg machine while a parody of the Beastie Boys song “Girls” plays. If you’ve been in a cave and haven’t seen it, check it out here:

A few days ago, I saw a post from Joe Hanson of It’s Okay to be Smart, reporting that the Beastie Boys went after GoldieBlox for copyright infringement. GoldieBlox responded with a lawsuit alleging that the parody fell under fair use, and nerds across the Internet supported them and were horrified at the Beastie Boys for being such assholes.

Today, Devin Faraci of Badass Digest posted a recrimination, claiming that GoldiBlox is in the wrong because they:

1. are a company selling a product, no different than McDonald’s
2. filed suit first
3. painted the Beastie Boys as sexist
4. are “hiding behind fair use”

His argument is compelling, but ultimately misguided.

1. Yes, there is a difference between GoldieBlox and McDonald’s. If having something to sell means you’re just like McDonald’s, everyone ought to be buying red wigs and floppy shoes. Yes, GoldieBlox is a company; yes, they are selling something for money; but that’s where the likeness ends. GoldieBlox has a point of view – a mission, even – and a hell of a lot of people think it’s a good mission. They’re also a relatively small business, just starting out (though admittedly, they must have some money behind them with advertising this slick). Does that mean they should be allowed to do illegal acts, like steal a copyright? Absolutely not. But it does mean that a letter from a famous and wealthy band’s lawyer means a lot more to them than it means to McDonald’s. A letter from a lawyer is a very, very serious threat that means “do what we say or get ready to spend all your money on lawyers.”

2. Most individuals and small businesses don’t have the kind of money to defend themselves in court against a larger and motivated adversary, and so most of them would fold. GoldieBlox didn’t. I assume this is because, again, they must have some decent money backing them up, or they have a whole lot of guts and a good bank loan. Plus, filing suit first may have been a calculated move to save them money in the long run, since getting an injunction now may be cheaper and easier than defending a long case later. (I have no idea if this is so – it’s purely a guess on my part, but maybe some lawyers can weigh in below.)

3. I’ve read the suit and see nothing indicting the Beastie Boys as sexist. The song, though, is rightfully criticized. Faraci himself admits that the Beastie Boys have distanced themselves from much of their earlier work. The only point he has here is if other people are interpreting the Beastie Boys’ threat as uniquely targeting GoldieBlox, considering that they have a blanket policy against their work appearing in ads. If the Beastie Boys didn’t want to look as though they were shutting down a company that helps little girls get interested in engineering, they should have considered that earlier. Not having their lawyer send a threatening letter would have been far more convincing than issuing a follow-up statement saying they “strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering,” and I write that as someone who believes their statement and is a fan of their music. Hell, I even like the song “Girls” for being catchy and stupid.

4. But here’s the rub: the Beastie Boys’ song did not appear in this ad. The song in the ad is a clear parody of and political comment on the original. No one is “hiding behind fair use:” this kind of parody is exactly the kind of speech that should be protected from being silenced by parties with more money and lawyers. Had McDonald’s made a parody where the word “girls” was changed to “grills” and it was all about how delicious hamburgers are, the Beastie Boys and Faraci may have had a point. Instead, the GoldieBlox suit makes it plainly obvious that this parody stands in direct opposition to the original song:


Girls, all I really want is girls
And in the morning it’s girls
Cause in the evening it’s girls
I like the way that they walk
And it’s chill to hear them talk
And I can always make them smile
From White Castle to the Nile
Back in the day
There was this girl around the way
She liked my home-piece M.C.A.
He said he would not give her play
I asked him, “Please?” he said, “You may.”
Her pants were tight and that’s ok
If she would dance I would D.J.
We took a walk down to the bay
I hope she’ll say, “Hey me and you should hitthe hay!”
I asked her out she said, “No way!”
I should have probably guessed they’re gay
So I broke North with no delay
I heard she moved real far away
That was two years ago this May
I seen her just the other day
Jockin’ Mike D. to my dismay
Girls – to do the dishes
Girls – to clean up my room
Girls – to do the laundry
Girls – and in the bathroom
Girls, that’s all I really want is girls
Two at a time I want girls
With new wave hairdos I want girls
I ought to whip out my girls, girls, girls, girls,girls!


Girls. You think you know what we want, girls
Pink and pretty it’s girls.
Just like the 50’s it’s girls.
You like to buy us pink toys
And everything else is for boys
And you can always get us dolls
And we’ll grow up like them… false.
It’s time to change.
We deserve to see a range.
‘Cause all our toys look just the same
And we would like to use our brains.
We are all more than princess maids.
Girls to build the spaceship,
Girls to code the new app,
Girls to grow up knowing
That they can engineer that.
Girls. That’s all we really need is Girls.
To bring us up to speed it’s
Our opportunity is
Girls.Don’t underestimate

I am most certainly not a lawyer, and so I cannot say for sure whether this qualifies as “fair use.” All I know is that this is political speech that absolutely should be protected, regardless of whether it’s also persuading people to buy a product. The Beastie Boys have attempted to silence an apt criticism of their song using a lawyer’s letterhead, and that’s not cool.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. I think GoldieBlox is wrong on the sole point of preemptive counter suit. Parody is protected, and while in the music industry it’s considered good form to ask permission as a formality (e.g. it’s why Weird Al doesn’t parody Prince even though he legally could) , GoldieBlox isn’t part of the industry and shouldn’t be expected to play by the same social rules.

    1. I am not a lawyer but I work as an expert witness in IP suits. This strikes me as a terrible business decision for Goldieblox to make. I think that rather than encouraging them to continue the suit that people would be doing them a bigger favor by telling them to listen to their lawyers.

      First off, they are running a business and the point of a business is to make money rather than lose it. In the first case I was involved in, Souvereign vs Amazon, I was a fact witness for Amazon. Their case was as solid as can be imagined but they still settled for $25 million because the business risk of a billion dollar settlement was just too great. Juries do get it wrong at trial all the time. NewEgg eventually bust the patent in that case but it must have cost them $5 million at least to do that. This morning New Egg lost another case despite prior art that is 460 years old and having Whitt Diffie as their expert witness. So they are $2.6 million down.

      The clients I represent go to court because they have no choice, the issues involved are core to their business. They have no choice but to fight or make a settlement. Getting involved in lawsuits when you can avoid them is a bad business habit.

      IP law is a mess but GoldieBlox wasn’t started to solve that problem, they were started to make toys for girls that weren’t pink. There are lots of people fighting the IP law fight. GoldieBlox may be standing on principle but it is the wrong principle for them to be standing for. As any parent learns: pick your battles.

      On the legal issues themselves, I have seen a lot of IP defenses brought on similar approaches blow up in court. The Napster people thought that they had a cast iron defense and discovered that they didn’t have any at all.

      The problem with precedent is that it is judge made law and the law one judge decides, another can undecide. The parody exception is only one aspect of fair use which is a lot more restrictive than most non-lawyers imagine. There is no general exception for parody, rather there is a set of tests and making a parody is one of them.

      Different types of speech have different degrees of protection and advertising is consistently regarded as having the lowest degree of protection. Companies can’t claim ‘free speech’ in a defense against a deceptive advertising suit and the copyright holders will no doubt argue that they can’t claim ‘free speech’ in this case either.

      The legal issues are complex and almost certain to end in a jury trial which would cost GoldieBlox about half a million which is a stupid way for a startup to spend money.

  2. Thank you! At first, I thought you were going to side with Devin’s analysis. What a relief! This whole “Suing first” thing is ridiculous anyway. If you threaten someone with a lawsuit, you can seek declaratory relief. That’s a bit different then suing. Generally if you win declaratory relief the losing party is ordered to pay the legal bill. This is in place so that people will avoid making legal threats that have no legal basis and also so that the party being threatened doesn’t have a legal threat looming over their heads until the statue of limitations runs out.

    At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the mix of Fair Use and ‘Use for monetary gain’ pans out.

  3. Beastie Boys really went out of line here. They need to get over it.

    The closest I can see GoldieBlox coming to calling Beastie Boys sexist is the comment: “In the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ song entitled Girls, girls are limited (at best) to household chores, and are presented as useful only to the extent they fulfill the wishes of the male subjects.” That is fairly harsh (but accurate) but not a direct accusation of sexism.

    AFAIK GoldieBlox have used the excess funds from their Kickstarter campaign to a) change the artwork from the original product and b) Market the products. They seem to have succeeded. The original artwork was not very good: http://www.goldieblox.com/products/goldieblox-and-the-spinning-machine-collector-s-edition

  4. Stan Freberg, Weird Al, Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live – just a few people/groups that make money through fair use parody. There are times where an individual or (more usually) a company’s lawyers will send a “cease and desist” merely to protect the brand, with absolutely no intention of further activity, whether the activity is actually “ceased,” though that really doesn’t seem to apply here. (Then there’s Disney, which will sue you into oblivion anyway.) It’s done so that when a genuine violation occurs, the actual violator cannot claim as a defense that the copyright was not defended against lower violations (i.e., those without money). I don’t know if that’s what the Beastie Boys were doing here, just throwing out a thought from what I’ve seen and read in the past.

    I’m not familiar with the original tune, though (I’m not a BB fan) – is that modified or played as is? That could be a legitimate problem if it’s not a “sounds similar” composition.

    1. What to get the girls for Christmas? Try technical lego. I don’t think they got to making a pink version yet.

      (If they did I am very disappointed so don’t go and tell me, please!)

  5. I think there’s something to be said for this not qualifying as parody, actually, though it’s shaky. The parody lyrics aren’t actually a parody of the original material. It’s a response to gendered products and advertising, but, unless I’m missing something, not really a response to the song. The primary function isn’t parody either. When Weird Al, or Mad parody, even for profit, it’s still a parody for the sake of humor. Stephen Colbert does parody as a form of political commentary. Neither of these are use of parody to achieve ends outside of the parody. Essentially, what’s being sold is the parody itself. In this case, what’s being sold is a product, by use of parody.

    Essentially, the message of the parody, if not the exact text, would apply to other, less sexist tunes as well, and still make sense, because the jab is not at the tune, but at the way girl’s products are marketed. They’ve taken their own message and expressed it through a tune of someone else’s making.

    That being said, even if you do have a case (and I’m far from a legal expert either, I can just see how one could argue this isn’t protected speech), and even if you can sue, it doesn’t mean you should, and I think this was handled terribly.

    1. Well, it’s parody to sell a product, for sure.
      I don’t have enough hands for this:
      Adam Yauch apparently left instructions in his will about the use of the catalog, including no commercial use BUT
      The lyrical change is pointedly parodying the original message of the song AND
      The Beasties have absolutely and unequivocally distanced themselves from this song and that message, as did Yauch before he died, so the parody is on message with where the artists are now BUT
      Goldiblocks wrote/are using the parody for explicitly commercial ends.

    2. Parody for the sake of humor is a meaningless distinction. I don’t think anyone has ever won a court case by saying “But your Honor, I was really funny!” No one is measuring parody for how many laughs it gets.

      Parody is an imitation of an original work with the intent to mock the original work or some other target. This pretty clearly stands as an opposite message to the original work. It also couldn’t be mistaken for the original work.

      Frankly, if Weird Al can get away with “Eat it” I can’t see how Goldieblox would have an issue here.

      1. The point of parody for humor is that the value of the humor comes from the parody. What is being sold is the parody. In a sense, the parody is an end unto itself, in that it’s being used as a form of humor. Not advertising.

        Also, I don’t think this work actually stands as an opposite to the original work, except in that the original is sexist, and this is counter sexist. But the text of this version is countering the way toys are marketed to girls, not, it appears, anything in the original song itself. It sends a message that’s from an opposing school of thought from the original song, but not direct opposition.

        The ideas, all laudable, set forth in the parody version represent the views of the company. They are the same values they would express if parodying any other song, or writing their own jingle. If they picked another song, and there’s lots of options, the message would be the same, modified to the text, because the message reflects the company viewpoint, not a specific counter. Essentially they’ve expressed a viewpoint that was entirely their own, using a tune that someone else created.

        If it were a counter to the song, and an advertisement, I could kinda see it, in that you aren’t expressing the company view outside of ridiculing the original. If it were a unique message to the tune of the song, and not an advertisement, I could see it. As it is, it’s a message of the company ideals, used to sell the product, expressed through someone else’s tune.

        I think the lawsuit is a horrible move, and if the Beastie Boys actually wanted to distance themselves from the song, they’d endorse the advert, and the message. I like the advert. I hate the lawsuit. I hope the Beastie Boys lose the suit because… well I like the advert, and I don’t care about them in the slightest. But I don’t think it’s protected under Fair Use.

    1. I swear to jesus some loser just tried to post this in response to you:

      This “girl” was asking for it. Look how short “her skirt is ” and “how low her shirt” is. If it “she” didn’t want to be “raped”, “she” should’ve been less inviting to “rape”.

      Worst argument.

      I almost approved it so we could all laugh at him, but then I would have to do extra work of banning him again and this is easier.

  6. The Beastie Boys started tier entire career sampling beats from copyrighted songs with wild abandon. They became famous using other people’s music. Nobody they employ (including their lawyers) would be making a dime if it weren’t for the very practice they’re suing over.

    The hypocrisy is nauseating.

    1. I see no hypocrisy. Wikipedia lists two occasions where the song was parodied or covered for the sake of the music itself… Ke$ha’s parody song “Boys” and a cover by Molotov…. and they did not threaten with copyright infringement in those cases. I’m sure because the end result was not an end product other than the music itself.

      1. So the Beastie Boys never made any money off their music? I guess it was all “for the sake of the music”.

        Bullshit. They made a fortune sampling other people’s music. Did they ask any of those artists if they had ethical problems with what the Beastie Boys were saying? No. They sampled freely and referenced popular culture with wild abandon, because that’s what artists do. They made a lot of money doing it. Now that they’re sitting on that mountain of cash, they suddenly think artists should have control over what others do with their work.

  7. I think in the end, The Beastie Boys’ ultimate goal is to protect what they see as their life’s work and their art. I think the effect of TBB “silencing” a criticism of the original song is incidental and not the original intent of their claim. And I really do believe the genuineness of their statement and that they support the overall message of the parody, but still are choosing to stick to what they see is a principled stand. I am actually of two minds about this whole issue…… I have to do a lot more thinking about it. I’m curious to see what the end result of this kerfuffle will be though.

    1. “The Beastie Boys’ ultimate goal is to protect what they see as their life’s work and their art.”

      Which is a privilege they never extended to other artists.

  8. The thing I’m confused about is the following:
    Goldieblox filing states ‘Lawyers for the Beastie Boys claim that the GoldieBlox Girls Parody Video is a copyright infringement, is not a fair use, and that GoldieBlox’s unauthorized use of the Beastie Boys intellectual property is a “big problem” that has a “very significant impact.”’
    The Beastie Boys representative, according to Huffington Post, stated ‘There was no complaint filed, no demand letter (no demand, for that matter) when [GoldieBlox] sued Beastie Boys.’

    Assuming Goldieblox did not outright lie in their filing (which would be dumb), that means the Beastie Boy rep is being ambiguous here to insinuate there was no contact, when in fact, even if there was no “complaint filed” or “demand letter”, there was contact from a lawyer suggesting there would be trouble. If this is the case, it’s pretty disingenuous of the Beastie Boys to frame that as them “simply asking”. You don’t “simply ask” with a threatening letter from a lawyer.

    I can’t find a single news source that has addressed this obvious discrepancy. What am I missing?

    1. I think the weasel word the Beastie Boys’ lawyer is hiding behind is “demand”. There was probably a letter, because GoldieBlox’s suit quotes from it. I can’t imagine filing a lawsuit and then quoting a nonexistent letter.

    2. Woa… I just read the Beastie Boys’ statement on this. “When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”

      That is incredibly dishonest. “GoldieBlox filed for declaratory judgment, which is a fairly standard move after someone claims that you violated their rights. It’s not a lawsuit seeking money — just to declare that the use is fair use.” -TechDirt

  9. I have to side with the Beastie Boys in this issue. As have been said already, there are four factors that are considered in court when determining fair use, but ultimately it is legal precedent that bears the weight. The most cited case in the various news has been Campbell vs Acuff-Rose Music where the SCOTUS ruled that the song in question was indeed parody because it was distinct enough from the original and that commercialism is only one consideration of fair us. However, I have to point out that the ruling also did state that, “The use, for example, of a copyrighted work to advertise a product, even in a parody, will be entitled to less indulgence under the first factor of the fair use enquiry than the sale of a parody for its own sake…” The cases that have been ruled as parody have involved musical groups and the song itself was the product rather than being used to sell or advertise something else.

    Weird Al is getting mentioned, but he is a bad example. He has made it a personal rule since the early 90s to get permission. He doesn’t do the parody if he doesn’t have permission. Earlier works that he didn’t get permission would like be ruled as parody similar to legal precedent and of course the original song rights owners would have to sue to determine fair use.

    I also want to mention that it is in Adam Yauch’s will that Beastie Boys songs are not to be used in commercials, so even if the band wanted to give permission, they can’t legally. Because of this, I have to wonder if GoldieBlox decided to roll the dice and lawyer up with this preemptive suit for fair use knowing that they couldn’t get permission to begin with. Of course, now that this is in the court, Yauch’s will isn’t going to determine fair use, but it is worth consideration.

    The potential precedent of GoldieBlox suing first is really troublesome as a musician since if they do win sets a precedent of for-profit corporations to essentially ask for forgiveness rather than permission. This is trend that has been going on in “start up culture” especially in Silicon Valley that Paul Carr has identified as the cult of disruption. Basically, it’s an attitude that companies can do whatever they want and disregard regulation that is designed to protect workers and consumers.

    And lastly, the GoldieBlox products are being questioned as to their supposed mission. Reviews of the product itself has shown the product is not very well made and still has very troubling gender stereotyping going on.

    Good review of the issues I’ve bought up are here:

    And Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=CASE&court=US&vol=510&page=569

    1. “…the GoldieBlox products are being questioned as to their supposed mission. Reviews of the product itself has shown the product is not very well made and still has very troubling gender stereotyping going on.”

      This is clearly evidence that they’ve violated copyrighted material.

      1. From Rebecca’s post: “GoldieBlox has a point of view – a mission, even – and a hell of a lot of people think it’s a good mission.”

        The reason that this issue is on the board is because of what GoldieBlox is about (or perhaps more accurately, what GoldieBlox claims to be about). Likewise, this post is about defending the small, start-up company who is trying to promote its “mission” or to make a political statement. Thus, it is certainly relevant to consider if the “mission” is to sell cheap crap by preying upon a niche market who are hungry for non-stereotype products. It is even more relevant if the company on the mission manufactured a controversy to drum up attention for the purpose of selling more cheap crap, and that’s where the evidence, in my opinion, is leading.

        And you ignored the parts where I discussed the controversy directly, and pointed out that your dismissive, unskeptical comments were inappropriate and baseless. So, if you want to stick with what you perceive to be relevant topics, that’s where you should have tried to rebut me.

        1. Whoops. Mea culpa. I thought this was your response to my post below. I saw the links in the long post above, and just thought they were from mine. Very sorry. I don’t think I can delete this comment, but I will try. Otherwise, I apologize.

          Although, I guess, I would still make the point that the quality of the underlying product is relevant to the discussion.

      2. It’s completely relevant. The reason being is that the legal precedent for song parodies involve the parody song being the product itself. The court case that I mentioned specifically stated in the summary judgement that advertisements, even when parody, would be less entitled in the court’s consideration. Because of this, some including Rebecca in the original post, argue that GoldieBlox should get a pass because the use of the song is in conjunction of their corporate mission. Therefore, it is reasonable to examine and question what that mission is. I personally do not think the GoldieBlox are empowering to girls at all. The product is still highly gendered in a stereotypical way that ultimately doesn’t challenge the status quo.

        The slate blog article that I linked to in my first post overviews the issues quite well. Here are some select quotes since it looks like you didn’t bother to read it:
        “…Actual engineers left less-than-glowing reviews of the toys on Amazon. Internet sleuths unearthed the potentially compromising fact that one of GoldieBlox’s products revolves around a princess pageant….”

        ““You cannot create a toy meant to break down stereotypes when you start off with the ideal that ‘we know all girls love princesses,’” argues Melissa Atkins Wardy. “When we use princess culture, pinkification, and beauty norms to sell STEM toys to girls and fool ourselves that we are amazing and progressive and raising an incredible generation of female engineers we continue to sell our girls short. It is the equivalent of covering broccoli in melted processed cheese and thinking we’ve been served a very healthy meal.””

        “Maybe it’s no coincidence that, in the words of scientist Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, “toys that have traditionally been viewed as male oriented … [also] elicited the highest quality play among girls.” These are toys that don’t feel the need to couch problem-solving and imaginative expression in precooked story lines, as GoldieBlox does in its quest to make engineering female-friendly. (These are also not the toys getting millions of YouTube hits—funny, that.)”

        So, gender stereotyping, bad design, bad quality, and viral marketing make for a empowering product?. All I’m seeing is a rebranding of Legos for Girls.

        It’s irrelevant now though, because the company is voluntarily pulling the commercial and is claiming ignorance:

        And if you would read the Reuter’s article that I posted that goes into depth about the questionable practices of Silicon Valley start ups and in particular GoldieBlox, then you would have also read that the GoldieBlox CEO has been involved with offensive, racist “praody” viral marketing in the past: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xb6mty_i-want-a-goat-i-m-on-a-boat-spoof-f_people (NSFW). And her bio mentioning the “I want a goat” video: http://www.engineergirl.org/Engineers/Directory/13512.aspx

  10. I too thought the video was inspiring but my thoughts about it have changed since reading up on GoldieBlox and the whole situation. The Beastie Boys made no such threat to GoldieBlox before the company pre-emptively sued the Beasties. This isn’t the first time the company used a song without permission from the artist (see Queen’s We Are the Champions). Their whole marketing strategy is referred to as The Cult of Disruption and is common in Silicon Valley. It often entails aggressive and antagonistic measures and abhors any type of regulation. They are not just a small well-meaning start-up out to do good; they are a well-lawyered corporation (judging from the speed with which they sued the Beasties, they were likely prepared to employ that strategy all along) with aggressive and calculated marketing techniques trying to sell products and maximize profit. And they’re doing a great job of it. Unfortunately, from many reviews I’ve read the quality of their products don’t quite live up to their feminist message. Common complaints are that they are cheaply made, still employ many traditionally feminine aspects, and are severely lacking in teaching imaginative or creative thinking. I for one am going to try to remember to be a little more, um, skeptical before giving too much credit to a corporation that very well may have simply co-opted a message I like to hear.

  11. “The Beastie Boys made no such threat to GoldieBlox before the company pre-emptively sued the Beasties.”

    No. No, they didn’t.

    “I too thought the video was inspiring but my thoughts about it have changed since reading up on GoldieBlox and the whole situation.”

    No. No, you didn’t.

    “Unfortunately, from many reviews I’ve read the quality of their products don’t quite live up to their feminist message. Common complaints are that they are cheaply made, still employ many traditionally feminine aspects, and are severely lacking in teaching imaginative or creative thinking.”

    Odd that you brought up the exact same irrelevant point as trinity did above. It’s almost like some kind of astroturfing is going on here!

    1. That isn’t a very skeptical post. First, with respect to the idea that the Beastie Boys made a threat, it is alleged in the Complaint generically without any citation to a cease and desist letter (which would be the way such a threat is conveyed almost exclusively) or identifying anyone. And the BBs deny sending such a threat. So, there is no evidence, other than a generic and vague allegation in the complaint, to support your confident and dismissive “No. No, they didn’t.” You have even less basis for repeating that sentence a second time.

      And with respect to your last paragraph, that mirrors a conspiracy theory a little too closely, don’t you think? What on earth would be the basis for an “astroturf” campaign against Goldieblox and who would be funding it? The BBs? Why? Lego or similar toy makers? Well, at least they would have some motive, but it seems far-fetched that they would put much effort into defaming Goldieblox on skeptical/feminist blogs when they have the ability to make and market a better, cheaper version of the GoldibIox product readily available to them. It just makes no sense whatsoever.

      In any event, it is pretty easy to dig a little and see that there is a strong basis for concluding that the product might not be well made, and that the owners of Goldieblox might be putting more efforts into unconventional marketing techniques (which certainly could include filing declaratory judgment actions against famous bands) than into making a quality product (link below). Ask yourself if you are following the evidence, or if you are allowing yourself to be so wedded to the message that you are blocking out any contradictory evidence.


      1) Poorly made – I don’t know if this is a Q.C. problem (it’s made in China) or just a bad design. The figures that you put on top of the yellow wheels do not fit snugly, so with the force of turning the wheels, they always fall off unless you pull the ribbon very carefully and slowly

      We have been so excited to open and play with this toy. I have a mechanical engineering degree and was thrilled to purchase this for my 6yo daughter. I guess I didn’t realize that all you can do is rearrange the pieces to make the little figurines spin. It needs some other dimension than just changing the route of the spinning. Maybe a piece that adds a vertical dimension or something? Not sure how long this will keep my little ones attention and at this price, the pieces are a little flimsy.


      -Poor quality for price
      -Save some dusty shelf space: it really just does one thing and after one use (maybe two) nobody wants to play with it any more
      -Really doesn’t inspire creativity or “engineering” skills, no room for thinking outside the box
      -If we are trying to empower girls, why does it have to be pink and purple?
      -A thin Caucasian blonde wearing short shorts and a PINK toolbelt? Really?

      1. Interesting that you’re willing to ignore that the vast majority of the Amazon reviews are highly positive. Why do you lend so much weight to the 26 one-star reviews and not to the 156 five-star reviews?

    2. I have no idea why you’d saying the first thing (they did file a pre-emptive suit, even if it has a different technical term), or why you would say the second (as if my disagreeing with you about something automatically means I can’t feel a certain way? WTF?), but to your third point…

      It’s far from irrelevant. If a politician says he supports women’s rights but doesn’t vote for such issues or act like it in his personal life, would you say that his actions are irrelevant and his message that he supports women’s rights are all that matters? Of course not. He’s lying to get votes and he’d be called out for such. What if Kentucky Fried Chicken said they thought all animals should be treated humanely? Should animal rights activists then blindly support KFC, regardless of what they actually do? The character and the actions of the person saying it matter. If a corporation says it supports something but the products don’t reflect their message, you would disregard what they’re selling and simply take what they say on faith? I didn’t just make these things up. They are frequent criticisms of the product and company. I’m not saying GoldieBlox is as sinister as the two examples I gave, but you’re being naive to simply trust a corporation’s marketing campaign, even if the marketing campaign is a positive message when viewed by itself.

      Furthermore, nowhere in my comment did I say anything about copyright infringement. I don’t know the details of the law well enough to determine whether it was infringement or not. I am allowed to have an opinion about the situation that doesn’t revolve around the law. I was commenting in response to Rebecca’s post, much of which portrayed the situation as a small well-intentioned start-up company being threatened by the more powerful Beastie Boys, and that is simply not true.

  12. If you don’t understand why the first statement I quoted above is wrong, arguing with you is a waste of time. Nobody sued anybody. If you think otherwise at this point, you’re just being lazy.

    Commenting on the quality of the product is irrelevant to every single ethical or legal issue in this video. Bringing it up time and time again is just bizarre. That multiple people are making the exact same non sequitur is creepy. You all heard the same asinine argument somewhere, and you’re just parroting it without thinking about it. Even if they’re the best toys ever made, it wouldn’t turn a violation of copyright into fair use. Even if they give girls cancer, it wouldn’t make fair use of a song into a copyright violation.

    Quit throwing around the terms “evidence” and “skeptic”. They don’t have magical powers.

    1. #1: Please identify what evidence you have that the statement: “The Beastie Boys made no such threat to GoldieBlox before the company pre-emptively sued the Beasties.” is false. The only thing I see is paragraph 3 of the Complaint which only makes a vague allegation, and even the Joe Hanson link above has retracted the statement and called it inconclusive. In any event, someone clearly sued someone, so I’m not even sure what you are saying or trying to say.

      #2: My comment was aimed at your conspiracy theory, which you have maintained, that this is some “astroturf” or bizaare talking point memo. Not only is there no evidence to support it, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Suggesting that my pointing out the flaw in this argument is further proof of the conspiracy is, well, it’s exactly what conspiracy theorists do.

      For myself, this is the first place I’ve ever seen the controversy raised, although I do have a vague memory of seeing information about the Kickstarter project back when that was going on. I would like it to succeed. I agree with its “mission.” But, right now, it looks to me like there is a decent chance that the real “mission” was to promote crappy toys by drumming up a media circus around its use of certain music. It’s not relevant to the discussion of whether this is “fair use” of the song or not, but since this isn’t a legal blog, it is certainly relevant to whether we should be coming to the defense of a company that might be trying to take advantage of our view point to sell us crap.

      Stop throwing around dismissive comments. They don’t make your comments any more intelligent or right.

  13. On the subject of for-profit violations of musicians’ and artists’ copyright, one glaring example would be online music sharing, which profits those who sell advertisements on the download sites, and which is usually nowhere close to a parody or “fair use.” I find it interesting that my more libertarian friends accept downloading as ethical, or at least inevitable and good, responding with phrases like “people get exposure that way” and “you can’t stop it, you might as well go along with it” and “information should be free.” Yet when the violation in question is a political statement from a for-profit or non-profit related to feminism or social justice more generally, I hear crickets chirping…

    To be fair, the GoldiBlox company protects its own copyright, I’m sure, so maybe there’s an attitude of “if you dish it out, you should be willing to take it.” But still, for all the good I’m told that free intellectual property can do, a good portion of the staunch advocates of such freedom go silent in cases where good is actually done (and harm is minimal).

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