Yes, It's Stealing: GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys

For almost a week, I’ve resisted the urge to throw my opinionated hat in to the ring about the whole GoldieBlox – Beastie Boys shenanigans that have been flying around social media.

My self-imposed silence on the subject is over.

GoldieBlox is a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers www.memyselfandjen.com

Photo courtesy of GoldieBlox press kit

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a brief run-down.  Last week, Good Morning America featured a brief piece about a toy company that was doing something different.  GoldieBlox is dedicated to developing toys for girls – but not your every day, run of the mill, it’s all pink and princess-filled toys.  According to their website, they make toys that girls can BUILD things with to help “inspire future engineers”.  Their goal is to “disrupt the pink aisle”.    There was an awesome YouTube video that showed adorable, grammar school aged girls with their Rube Goldberg “Princess Machine” project, made from GoldieBlox.  And it was all set to a remade version of the Beastie Boys classic “Girls”.

I’ll admit that the first time I watched the video I was hooked.  Being the mother of two young daughters that are 8 and 5, I love ANYTHING that involves creative thinking, building concepts and toys that will actually help teach my daughters something that doesn’t involve being a Princess or how to play dress-up.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I’d like it not to be the ONLY thing that their toys teach them.  I was even so intrigued with the concept and message of GoldieBlox that I emailed the company to see if they had a blogger program or were interested in working with bloggers or social media people.

It never occurred to me that there was any controversy with the company or the video until I heard that GoldieBlox didn’t talk to the Beastie Boys prior to using their song.  The Beastie Boys contacted GoldieBlox to discuss the “hey that’s our song”.  And then GoldieBlox filed a lawsuit against the Beastie Boys, claiming that their version of “Girls” was a parody and thereby protected under fair use.

The speculating that has gone on in the last week regarding this situation has been insane.  Let’s set aside the legal maneuvering of terms like “fair use” and “parody” for a second and just bottom line this.  Because here’s what I’m really having a problem with:

When did it become okay to take something that isn’t yours?

As a blogger, I am in a community that is fiercely protective of our individual content.  I’ve sat through entire sessions at blogging conferences that discuss not only ways to protect yourself against theft of your work, but what measures should be taken if you are a victim to such a heinous act.  I personally know several people who have had content from their websites copied (in some cases word for word and in others some of the wording has been slightly altered), and posted on another person’s website as their own work.  We in the blogging community watermark our pictures and disable the right-click features on our websites so that people don’t steal our pictures and re-purpose them for their own personal gain.  This is a hot button issue with bloggers, and when there are cases of it that happen, the community as a whole generally rallies around the wronged individual and offer assistance in reporting this stolen content to social media sites that it is republished on, etc.

So why are some in our community freaking out over the Beastie Boys being upset that someone took one of their songs, altered some of the words, and repurposed it to sell a product without their consent or permission?   I’ve been shocked to see the number of social media professional coming to Goldie Blox defense and vilifying the Beastie Boys for defending themselves against theft of their art.

When did it become okay that if we were in the wrong, the best defense was to make the other guy look like a jerk for calling us out on it?

From the youngest times of understanding in my children, I have taught them that taking something that doesn’t belong to them is wrong.  If they would like to use something that isn’t theirs, they need to ask permission from the owner.  And if they say no, that is the end of it.  That doesn’t mean that they go behind their back to create something that is similar enough that they can waive the law in front of them like a bullet-proof vest and say “Too Bad!”.  I’m not saying that is what Goldie Blox did – my understand from everything I’ve read is they didn’t even ask.  They just went ahead and used it because it fit their message.  Whether it was done in ignorance or there was deliberate intent for the controversy to be good for business doesn’t matter; the bottom line is they took something that wasn’t theirs without permission.

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