GoldieBlox was at it again last night with a Super Bowl commercial using a popular song to promote its engineering toys for girls. Depending on your view, the company is either a brave feminist upstart or a cynical opportunist that steals from artists to make a quick buck. Or maybe it’s both.
In case you’re unfamiliar, GoldieBlox caused a stir in November after it racked up millions of YouTube (s GOOG) views with a clever commercial that rewrote the Beastie Boys’ boorish anthem “Girls” into a message of empowerment with new lyrics like “Girls, to code a new app/To grow up knowing that they can engineer that.”
The company never got a license to use the song, and when the Beastie Boys asked about the video, GoldieBlox sued the band the next day, declaring it had a fair-use right to the song. The two sides are still locked in a court fight.
GoldieBlox got oodles more publicity on Super Bowl Sunday by blaring head-banger favorite “Cum on Feel the Noize,” — once again with new lyrics and images of little girls eschewing pink plastic in favor of engineering endeavors. (The toy maker was able to land an ad spot in the big game because it won a small business contest sponsored by Intuit.)
It’s unclear whether GoldieBlox paid for a license this time around or whether, as with the Beastie Boys ad, it’s claiming a right to use the song as a parody. (Update: a spokesperson stated by email that Intuit bought a license to use the music)
Whatever the answer, GoldieBlox is poised to come out a winner. Despite some crummy reviews for its toys, the Super Bowl ad means it gets another wave of massive publicity, all the while appearing to be a plucky small business. Last time around, the legal controversy took place right before the Black Friday shopping frenzy — which may or may not have been a coincidence.
For fans and feminists alike, the GoldieBlox case is a tough one. The company has a history of helping itself to popular songs, including those by Daft Punk and Queen, to juice its marketing efforts under the cover of parody and progress. But it’s also delivering a powerful message in a tech and engineering culture still rife with sexism.
Meanwhile, it’s a good bet that glam bands Slade and Quiet Riot are enjoying more downloads for “Cum On Feel the Noize” right now than they have in many years. Finally, here’s a Twitter debate from last night, a guide to fair use — and more from YouTube: