According to this analysis by Chez Paznienza on The Daily Banter, toymaker GoldieBlox not only used copyright infringement as a marketing tool leading up to the 2013 holidays, but that same YouTube spot illegally using a song by The Beastie Boys was instrumental in their winning a $4 million dollar TV spot placement during tomorrow’s Super Bowl. As Paznienza writes, “The Beastie Boys found out their music was being used against their wishes by GoldieBlox when the company initially submitted the ad to Intuit, which was running a contest to place the ad of a small business into 2014′s Super Bowl coverage. Let me say that again: Even though a new commercial would likely be shot, GoldieBlox submitted an ad made up entirely of ripped-off material that would potentially go out to 100-million people. Even Shia LaBeouf would think that was fucking insane. But even after GoldieBlox pulled the commercial and scrubbed it from YouTube, they remained in the contest; that never went away.” Paznienza is wrong that the YouTube spot was made “entirely” of ripped-off material, but he’s right that the controversy over the ripping off generated buzz around GoldieBlox, which helped them win public votes in this contest for the Super Bowl ad. Maybe if contest finalist Locally Laid had ripped off Prince’s “Darling Nikki” or something . . . but I’ll let that train of thought run down the tracks before I get in trouble.
In Episode Four of our new podcast “some tech thing” we talk a bit about this story, but not enough. Given the amount of screaming people do on the subject of copyright trolls and so-called abusive takedowns (neither of which is either chronic or without remedy), not nearly enough screaming happens when people or companies purposely orchestrate a copyright controversy and leverage some artists’ brand as a springboard for a massive marketing blitz. Not only should the Beastie Boys pursue their case vigorously against GoldieBlox, but the taxpayer should probably be reimbursed for wasting court time on this one.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with bogus claims of “disruption.” It’s the meaningless buzzword of our times. And while I’d like to applaud GoldieBlox’s founder Debbie Sterling’s goal to “disrupt the pink aisle” and get girls into science and engineering, I can’t possibly endorse her “disrupting” the rights of other entrepreneurs in order to gain market-share, all the while posing as the innocent little startup that could. So, in response to GoldieBlox earning itself a free Super Bowl ad on the backs of creators (and in honor of Bard classmate Adam Yauch), I’m backing this project below. Check out Strawbees, an affordable, building toy that allows kids (and adults) to construct things out of scrap materials, namely straws. Strawbees are unisex, cheap, not mass-produced by Chinese labor; and so far, they’re not marketed in a way that leaves the consumer feeling kinda slimy.
ADDENDUM: See this story on The Trichordist. Did GoldieBlox violate the rules of the contest when it submitted a spot to Intuit that contained infringing material?