Copyright infringement laws protect the rights of individuals or companies when someone attempts to reproduce, distribute or use their original creation without permission. However, with the freedom of the Internet, copyright infringement laws become more and more complicated. It appears that anyone can sing a song or copy someone else's work and post their own version on YouTube or other websites.
Using a copyrighted song in an advertisement, even if the original version is changed, can open up a legal battle. That's what happened with GoldieBlox, a toy manufacturer. The toy company used music from the song "Girls" for a video advertisement. The song was originally performed by the group Beastie Boys. The Beastie Boys were not happy with the use of the song; they claimed the use of it was copyright infringement. Because GoldieBlox had completely changed the lyrics of the original song, the company filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles claiming that it was "fair use as a parody."
The Beastie Boys also revealed that Adam Yauch, a former member of the group who is no longer living, had included a statement in his will prohibiting the use of any of his music in any type of advertising. When GoldieBlox heard about this, it not only pulled the song from its advertising, but withdrew the lawsuit. The company also wrote a letter to the two remaining Beastie Boys, saying that GoldieBlox wanted to respect Yauch's wishes. However, the people at the company did not deny that they still believed their advertisement legally fell under the fair use rights.
GoldieBlox may have won its lawsuit if the original work under the copyright was not violated. Then Yauch's will would have been addressed. However, it too may not have had a leg to stand on, depending on the desires of the other two Beastie Boys. The copyright was part of a joint ownership, and if one party is deceased in joint ownership, the other parties have free will to do what they desire with the music.
Copyright laws and other entertainment laws are not always straightforward. Some issues may be up for debate and may require good legal representation to explain and fight for the cause.
Source: Forbes.com, "GoldieBlox Pulls Beastie Boys Song From Ad Citing Adam Yauch's Will" Kelly Phillips, Nov. 27, 2013