“Oh no!” said the email that went round the EFF office on Friday. Could it be true that the Beastie Boys had unleashed the legal hounds to shut down a parody ad that uses the group's classic misogynistic ditty, “Girls”? Surely not. As remix pioneers, the Beastie Boys are the veterans of many legal battles against copyright maximalists. The Beastie Boys aren’t copyright bullies, they fight those bullies. Right?
Wrong, at least this time. The Beastie Boys and Universal Music have indeed accused the video's creator, toy company GoldieBlox, of copyright infringement. Happily, GoldieBlox not only refused to be intimidated, it decided to go on the offensive, filing a complaint asking a federal court to declare that the ad was a lawful fair use.
It's unclear how strong the legal threats were—they aren’t attached to the complaint—but GoldieBlox is clearly worried not just about an infringement lawsuit, but any effort to abuse the DMCA to take down the video just as the holiday shopping season gets under way.
The Beastie Boys famously object to the use of their music in any advertising. Adam Yauch explicitly mentioned it in his will. Nonetheless, GoldieBlox should win on the merits. Here’s why.