By Brandon Wiebe
GoldieBlox, a toy company that generated buzz this week when its recent online ad went viral, has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking a declaratory judgment that its parody of the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls” constitutes fair use. The viral commercial shows three girls, bored of watching princess cartoons, build and unleash a Rube Goldberg machine in their house. The commercial is set to a parody of “Girls,” with the original lyrics replaced by more empowering lyrics in line with the company’s mission to get girls involved in science, technology and engineering.
The complaint in GoldieBlox, Inc. v. Island Def Jam Music Grp., 4:13-cv-05428-DMR (N.D. Cal. 2013) alleges that “the Beastie Boys and their label have lashed out and accused GoldieBlox of copyright infringement.” It is settled law that even commercial parody can constitute fair use. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994). While money generated from a parody can weigh against a finding of fair use, it is only one of four factors weighted in fair use analysis. The defendants will likely seek to distinguish a parodic recording created as a single or part of an album versus one made as a background accompaniment to an advertisement.