Back in 2012 there was a Kickstarter for this toy called GoldieBlox. I remember looking at it on Kickstarter with mixed feelings (“We want more girls to be engineers” is a great sentiment, but why is the answer always “Make it pink”?). I remember thinking the shipping prices were too high to Canada and that my daughter was a bit young for this building block/engineering toy.
A year later I walk into our local Mastermind Toys and on their shelves sits a stack of GoldieBlox sets. Awesome! I am always excited to see a small independant company doing well. The toy immediately caught my husband’s eye. I told him I thought it might be a neat present for the big kid. We had the three year old with us at the time, so I thought I might go back on another day and grab it.
|GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, stock photo from Mastermind Toys|
Later that same day a friend sent me a link to a video ad for GoldieBlox. The ad featured girls playing and building a giant Rube Goldberg type contraption while a reworded version of the song Girls! from The Beastie Boys played. “Girls to build the spaceship! Girls to code the new app! Girls to grow up knowing that they can engineer that.” It was a cute ad with a great message. My daughters watched it, loved it, danced to it. And the big one told me she would really like to play with that toy. Yes folks, advertising works.
My first thought on seeing the clever and adorable video was, Wow. they must be doing well! Awesome! I mean here they are producing a video ad, which obviously took some time and effort (read dollars) and they even licensed a piece of music to use in the ad. GoldieBlox must be selling! How cool is that? I immediately posted the video on my personal Facebook page and sent a link off to hubby. “See, this is that toy I was talking about the other day. We should totally get that for G.”.
Hubby also thought the ad was cute and clever and reposted it to his wall. And yes, this is how a video goes viral. Apparently the video racked up over 7 million views on You Tube in just six days. Fantastic. The problem is, I was wrong when I assumed that GoldieBlox licensed the song off of The Beastie Boys. Apparently they just used it without permission. Which is not cool.
I strongly believe in copyright laws. Even legality aside, strictly from a moral standpoint; You don’t take someone else’s work and use it as your own. Ever. Period. I mean this has been impressed upon me from a young age, they teach you in school — plagiarism is bad. And now, working as a blogger, copyright concerns are a topic that comes up frequently. Can I post this recipe? How do I give proper attribution for this photo? I worry about this sort of thing daily, right?
There’s a bit more to it than that. Not only did they use the song without permission, GoldieBlox then preemptively sued the The Beastie Boys. I am sure from a legal standpoint there is some logic to this, but I have trouble wrapping my brain around it. That would be like someone taking content off of my blog, reworking it for their own use, and then suing me for the right to steal my content.
The point is, regardless of the legality, it’s morally suspect. Fair use and parody are not legitimate defenses when you are using the content to sell something. And now, despite the fact that I think they make truly clever toys, this company will never see a dime from me, as I won’t buy from someone who thinks copyright issues don’t apply to them.
From The Beastie Boys public response:
We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.
As creative as it is, make no mistake, 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.
(And Ha! I suspect that GoldieBlox would be rather upset if someone else stole their concept and started producing a knock off. I highly doubt they’d be say, “Nah. That’s ok. It’s for a good cause. We want to support girls becoming engineers!”)
What do you think? Would you still buy this toy?