Beastie Boys in legal feud with toymaker GoldieBlox over "Girls" viral ad

Beastie Boys rappers Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond attend "The Punk Singer" screening on Nov. 24, 2013, in New York.
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images
An online video advertisement that includes a parody of the Beastie Boys song "Girls" has turned into a viral hit, but the rap group's surviving members are no fans.

On Monday, the Beastie Boys released an open letter sent to the Oakland, California-based toymaker GoldieBlox over the company's recent online spot, which has so far drawn in more than 8 million views on YouTube.

In the ad, three girls sing a re-worked version of the Beastie Boys' classic single "Girls," off the 1986 debut album, "Licensed to Ill." The three girls lament the fact that they're often given pink-colored gifts and treated like princesses, instead deciding to engineer Rube Goldberg-style devices around the house. 

The company markets itself as offering "toys for future engineers," and the ad appears to take a stand against traditional gender stereotypes.

The surviving members of Beastie Boys say that GoldieBlox did not seek approval before the ad went public, which led the toymaker to make a fair use claim and file a lawsuit on Thursday against the rap group and its record labels, Island DefJam and Universal Music, reports The New York Times. The toy company alleges that it was initially threatened with litigation by lawyers from the Beastie Boys and wanted to prevent any possible copyright infringement claims.

In the lawsuit filing, GoldieBlox alleges that it was trying to create a positive spin on the "Girls" single, described by the company as originally being "highly sexist."

"In the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ song entitled Girls [sic], girls are limited (at best) to household chores, and are presented as useful only to the extent they fulfill the wishes of the males subjects," the lawsuit document reads.

Formed in 1981 in New York City, the Beastie Boys soared to fame in the mid-80s as one of the first all-white hip-hop acts to find crossover success, with hits like "Fight For Your Right to Party" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." Founding member Adam "MCA" Yauch died in May, 2012 at 47 after a three-year battle with throat cancer.

In their open letter to the toymaker, the Beastie Boys wrote that they were "very impressed" by the creativity of GoldieBlox's ad and "strongly support empowering young girls," but argued that ultimately the company's ad crossed a line.

"As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product," the group wrote. "And long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads."

"When we tried to simply ask how and why our song 'Girls' had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US."

Representatives from GoldieBlox have yet to respond publicly to the letter.

Tell us: Do you think that the members of Beastie Boys have a right to protect their music from being used in ads?
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    Ken Lombardi is an entertainment reporter for CBS News. He has interviewed over 300 celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.