Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Beastie Boys and Fair Use

I can't believe I've never before read the judgment in the ad parody case of Annie Liebowitz vs. the Naked Gun. It took an ad satirizing the Beastie Boys song "Girls" to do it. But I'm going to make it required reading in my Advertising Criticism class, and use the current Beasties vs. Goldie Blox "case" as an example for thinking about copyright and parody in advertising.

Here's the offending commercial (assuming it hasn't been taken down from this "unofficial" post). Seems to me to be a very transformative use of "Girls" and that it does transform it via satire. Worth remembering "Girls" came out in 1986 and the Beastie Boys of that era had dicks on stage and girls in cages. They were not the "enlightened" Beasties of Free Tibet, etc. So while that song (and other stuff on Licensed to Ill) might read satirically now, wasn't then.

Here's a really good article about the debate, with links to court judgments in parody cases, from Andy Baio. Also links to coverage of the fight in Hollywood Reporter.

The best part is reading the Liebowitz finding. Looking at this image, isn't it clear that the world is a better place with such parodies, even in the service of advertising?

As the GoldieBlox vs. Beasties Boys thing plays out, I think it's interesting that GoldieBlox is essentially in danger of offending what I assume is the very audience it is courting: "Slumpies"--the socially liberal, urban minded professionals advertisers love, and that have in some cases fueled more progressive media representations because they're the people advertisers most want. But they also love the Beastie Boys. And you don't want to go against the wishes of the Beastie Boys, especially Adam Yauch.

No comments: