Asian American Commercial Watch: GoldieBlox’s “Princess Machine” & The Beastie Boys

8A-2013-12-27-GoldieBloxAd-ScreenshotBack in November, it took a few days after I saw this Internet video being posted by my technical or engineering educated female friends on Facebook before I got around to watching it – and I loved it. The video was produced by GoldieBlox:

“… a start-up toy company that sells games and books to encourage girls to become engineers. In the ad, three girls are bored watching princesses in pink on TV. So they grab a tool kit, goggles and hard hats and set to work building a machine that sends pink teacups and baby dolls flying through the house, using umbrellas, ladders and, of course, GoldieBlox toys. … The ad has become a hot topic of conversation on social media, generating discussion about a much broader issue: the dearth of women in the technology and engineering fields, where just a quarter of technical jobs are held by women. The ad premiered on YouTube and is not scheduled to appear on TV. (GoldieBlox is a finalist, though, for an Intuit contest to pay for a Super Bowl commercial.) The company has relied on the Internet for other parts of its business, too, raising its initial capital on Kickstarter and benefiting from promotions on Upworthy, a site that posts content with a social mission.”

One of the girls is an Asian American. As an uncle with two nieces, I’m excited to see such a “commercial.” However, the web video got pulled down. Apparently, the GoldieBlox song is a parody of The Beastie Boy’s song ‘Girls’ (I had no idea). GoldieBlox had argued that the parody was legal under ‘fair use’ but acquiesced after The Beastie Boys stated their reasoning:

“However, the letter continued, “your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.” It’s worth noting that the forbidding of advertising use was more than just a reversible decision on behalf of the band; it was actually part of the will of Adam Yauch (MCA), who died last year after a long bout with cancer. “In no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes,” the will states.”

Although from a legal standpoint, GoldieBlox probably had a chance defending itself on ‘fair use,’ in the court of public opinion to go against one  of The Beastie Boys’ wishes stated in his will, who had died of cancer, would not have been seen as kindly had that not been stated in his will. That’s too bad that a larger audience, especially girls, won’t be able to see the video, because I think the music video has a great message.


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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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