Beasties Boys and Rick Rubin and the Weird Copyright Lawsuit

It all begins with this commercial commissioned by a toy company called GoldieBlox.

Cute, right?  And you’d probably assume that Goldieblox licensed the use of the Beasties’ “Girls” for use in this ad.

But wait.  Weren’t the Beasties dead against this sort of thing? And didn’t Adam Yauch specify in his will that no Beasties songs can ever be used for commercial purposes? Why, yes he did.  So what’s going on?

Turns about the GoldieBlox never asked for permission to use “Girls” in this spot.  Once the Beasties heard about it, they sent a note that basically said “Um, hello? Are you aware of the rules surrounding copyright?”  They didn’t play heavy and bring any kind of lawsuit; they were just asking if the company knew what they were doing. No threat.  Just a question.

GoldieBlox then pre-emptively sued both the Beastie Boys, producer Rick Rubin, Island Def Jam, Sony Music Publishing and Universal Publishing saying that their use of “Girls” is a parody and is thus protected under the fair use portions of copyright law.

To recap: GoldieBlox is suing all these entities before they get a chance to (possibly) sue them. They believe what they did is completely okay under the law, even though the parody is being used to sell toys.

In the end, GoldieBlox relented, admitting it was ill to use something unlicensed.  Read how things were reconciled at The Guardian.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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