Way back in November, GoldieBlox, Inc. sued the Beastie Boys and a host of others, asking a court to declare that their use of a “parodied” version of the Beastie Boys song “Girls” in their commercial was legal as a protected fair use. After some open letters back and forth, it looked like the case was going away, before the Beastie Boys fired back in December with an Answer and a whole host of counterclaims, essentially accusing GoldieBlox of shameless appropriation in the name of corporate profits (I was interviewed for my thoughts at the time, no big deal). Looked like the parties were entrenched, but now, settlement on the horizon?
For any that are unfamiliar with the outlines of the case, I’ve attached the original complaint as well as the Answer and counterclaims below for you to peruse at your leisure. You can also check out a great writeup from before the Answer by Brady Kriss over at the Changing Media Group. Again, after all the back and forth it looked like the parties were pretty entrenched (GoldieBlox sued proactively, so they can’t back down, and the Beastie Boys are defending their bandmate’s dying wishes against commercialism, so they can’t back down), but now there’s some potential good news for everyone who wants to see a company whose mission they agree with come to terms with a band they really like.
Specifically, over the last month the parties have twice told the Court that they’d like to extend deadlines because they’re actively working on a resolution. That is, when GoldieBlox was served with the Beastie Boys’ Answer, they were put on a 20 day clock to respond. Back on January 6th, the parties stipulated (agreed) to extend that deadline by 21 days. When that deadline came back around, on the 27th, they agreed to extend another 21 days. On January 28th, the Court allowed the most recent extension, specifically noting that the parties are trying to negotiate a settlement.
I’ve been in these situations before, and there’s certainly no guarantee that a settlement will happen. However, I think this is a really good sign that both parties think a settlement is a possibility. When I’ve been in this situation before, the reason that I’ve agreed to an extension of time on filing of an Answer for the other party is because I really thought there was a possibility of settlement, and there’s no point in the other side spending money to have their attorney draft and file an answer if it looks like a settlement is imminent (of course, in federal litigation imminent could mean 6 months from now). That is, when you’re negotiating a settlement in a relatively friendly manner, and you think it might work, you don’t want to make the other side spend money, because that will make them angry, more pot committed, and generally less likely to settle.
So, no guarantees, but hopefully we’re a little closer to having girl-empowering toys and good music co-existing once again.