This post was written by Jesse Woo and originally published on the Washington Lawyers for the Arts Blog. Read the full post.
Feminism vs. creative control, parodists vs. rights holders, the ongoing GoldieBlox litigation has been cast in a variety of lights, each reflecting the preconceptions of the caster. Whatever one thinks of the relative moral standing of the parties, this case ultimately comes down to the perennial problem of determining what constitutes fair use. It raises a number of interesting issues that could each merit their own discussion, so instead of trying to cover every angle I will focus on a few novel ideas about the nature of fair use and parody. Ultimately, if we can set our biases aside this case becomes a useful lens through which to examine these important issues in copyright law.
This whole episode began with GoldieBlox, a company that makes toys designed to inspire young girls to enter STEM fields. Headed by a female engineer, the toy manufacturer’s goal is both noble and commercial. To achieve its goal, GoldieBlox created an advertisement depicting three young, racially diverse girls who reject traditional gendered entertainment options limited to princesses, tiaras, and the like. Instead they construct a large Rube-Goldberg device while an empowering version of the Beastie Boys’ song Girls plays in the background. The song encourages them to “build the spaceship,” and “code the new app.”