Saturday, November 23, 2013

"SUCKERS THEY BE SAYING THEY CAN TAKE OUT ADAM HOROVITZ," OR "JOCKIN' MIKE D TO MY DISMAY":  Much like the recently-filed Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke v. Gaye lawsuit, the makers of GoldieBlox have preemptively sued the Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin to assert that their super-awesome viral video is protected by the doctrine of fair use:
18. In the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ original song, girls are limited (at best) to household chores, and are presented as useful only to the extent they fulfill the wishes of the male singers. The girls are objects. The Goldie Blox Girls Parody Video takes direct aim at the song both visually and with a revised set of lyrics celebrating the many capabilities of girls. Set to the tune of Girls by the Beastie Boys but with a new recording of the music and new lyrics, girls are heard singing an anthem celebrating their broad set of capabilities—exactly the opposite of the message of the original. GoldieBlox Girls are the subjects; they are the actors taking charge of their environment. 


  1. The Pathetic Earthling11:51 AM

    I don't the species scuiridae had much success here.

  2. Lou W1:50 PM

    I was wondering about this when I saw the great video. IANAL, but I assumed they were going the parody route, rather than getting permission, I thought it was a brilliant reversal of the misogyny of the (catchy) original, and wish them the best in their action.

  3. I support the cause, but disagree with the ethic at play for two reasons -- first, because interpolation for commercial gain shouldn't be free unless the interpolated material is public domain, but also because I've always thought the Beastie Boys were being ironic.

  4. isaac_spaceman3:09 PM

    Given that the riff belongs to Bo Diddley and the call-and-response melody belongs to the Isley Brothers--neither of whom the Beasties ever compensated, I understand--I don't know why the Beasties would ever be entitled to any money for this.

  5. Saray6:48 PM

    I have to admit, I assumed they'd licensed it. But now that Adam has reminded me of that clause in MCA's will...uhhhh...I am, shall we say, uncomfortable. And while I appreciate their fair use argument, I do not agree with it. Which is rather unfortunate, as I appreciate the company and their concept a lot.

  6. As your friendly neighborhood musician, I'm up all night to get nerdy, and tell you that just because two tracks are medley-or-mashup-compatible, they are not identical.

    I think Girls would have had to have been pitch-shifted to fit alongside Shout, meaning the keys are different, and the melodies themselves are different -- in Girls there are five tones in use in the verse, and three or four in the chorus, while there are generally only two tones being alternated for the bulk of each of he lines in Shout.

    I am unaware Bo Diddley played the glockenspiel. Is it just that the rhythm evokes a Diddley rhythm? Once again, the melody is important here, because if Diddley deserve a co-write on Girls, so does he deserve one on Buddy Holly's every song, and for that matter, most modern blues music

    I'm sure you're kidding on the square, Isaac, but I feel the need to point out the difference between reverence and interpolation, with all the clarity at my disposal..

  7. Yeah, that too. I think he might have been OK with this one, because I believe the intent was to avoid their music being used in car commercials and such, but still, that there is serious stuff.

    I feel like the "ask for forgiveness rather than permission" ethos clashes with the "sue them before they sue you" one, like two chords a half-step apart ringing out at the same time.

  8. It seems clear to me that they were trolling, if nothing else. Nobody is that on-the-nose offensive. The song is told from an antihero's perspective.

    To wit: Ad-Rock objectifies women, believing their myriad purposes are for his own gain, true; their voices are relaxing to him, but it's never clear if he knows what they're actually saying.

    He asks his betrothed out, after complying with the Bro Code by checking with MCA to make sure he doesn't return her affections. She turns him down -- he soothes his fragile ego by assuming she is a lesbian, even though he knows that she has amorous intent towards MCA.

    Two years later, she is found, to his chagrin, to be engaging in an amorous affair with his other best friend, Mike D. He is flippant and annoying, but he is defeated at every turn of this story.

  9. Adam B.3:22 PM

    I don't think you can look at the one song in isolation; the whole album, along with the tour, seemed to be pro-objectifying women, and without much of a wink involved. I just don't buy the Andrew Dice "It's Just A Character" Clay defense here.

  10. Emily4:55 PM

    Yauch writes a long explanation of this issue in the book for "The Sound of Science" anthology. Basically, Yauch talks about believing that "Fight For Your Right" was a done as a joke ("Girls" isn't on the anthology). When they started the "Licensed to Ill" tour, they did the bad behavior and drinking beer onstage as a type of performance to further the joke because "No one expected [them] to act that way so it seemed really funny." As the tour went on, people started expecting that performance. Yauch goes on, "The strangest part about it was that after a short time I think we actually became just what it was that we'd set out to make fun of. By drinking so much beer and acting like sexist macho jerks we actually became just that."
    Not sure if this is Yauch trying to put a spin on the album after time and reflection (and maybe regret?), or not, but it's an interesting read.

  11. Jenn C.11:42 AM

    I've been having a lot of trouble lately trying to articulate my "issue" with the genderization of toys today. I have a 6 yo girl and a much younger boy and what I see in the toy aisles makes me cringe.

    I'm one of those rare people that did not like the viral video, and I'm not that wowed by the toy itself (it's still oh so very pink/pastel and per reviewers, poorly made in China). It really bugs me that they didn't get permission and are trying to turn it into a Feminist Statement.

  12. girard315:02 PM

    I think GoldieBlox would have been better served by sitting down and talking about it before filing the preemptive lawsuit.

    That being said, what is the main difference between fair use for parody (GoldieBlox) and fair use for sampling (most of the Paul's Boutique album)? There's a couple of songs on that album where most of the loop they rap over is a sizable chunk of a classic rock song intro.

  13. Emily9:46 PM

    It isn't just very pink/pastel, the toy has a princess pageant story that goes along with it. One girl is participating in a princess pageant, and if she wins she gets to ride on a float in the town parade. She loses the pageant, so her friends build her a float instead.