[An update. The corporation Intuit sponsored a competition for small businesses to get a Super Bowl ad and awarded it to GoldieBlox, despite the company being invovled in a lawsuit for doing something that violated the contest’s own rules. What kind of message does that send?]
First, we have the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people. Now, with a recent dispute between toymaker Goldieblox Inc. and the Beastie Boys we have a corporation — in the fine tradition of the Dred Scott decision — attempting to justify the exploitation of people’s work for the benefit of a business.
The reasoning Goldieblox, Inc. — which hijacked the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls” in a recent promotional video — uses to justify economic exploitation is right out of the book 1984: in the name of the greater “common good” (and to make even bigger profits), an individual’s autonomy is not important. To paraphrase George Orwell, Exploitation is Innovation.
There are some legal commentators who try to contend that the Goldieblox ad is not primarily aimed at advertising a product but “spreading” the company’s message that “traditional girl toys aren’t all that great for modern girls.”
Somehow that makes economic exploitation okay.
Well, looking past their doublethink, “a commercial ad is not an ad,” the video was, bottom line, to advertise the brand Goldieblox, Inc., a for-profit company. Whatever other message the ad has isn’t relevant. Just because you claim the message is positive, you don’t have to ask? Who decides if it’s a positive message or not? What if a company like Walmart wanted to use someone’s work without compensation to promote their “message,” would that be okay too? What is so hard about asking permission first? It’s the human thing to do.
What some are advocating here is ultimately nothing less than the violation of a basic human right everyone has: the right to the material and moral benefit in work you’ve created. The authors of the Slate article seem to have no problem that people are to work while others get rich off that labor. Why not at least demand that Goldieblox pay the Beastie Boys a share of the company’s profits? Or is treating people like sweatshop peasants, framed as “innovation” in true 1984-style, just too important a “social value” that it overrides people’s rights? Maybe it’s of value for a corporation, but absolutely not for human beings. Think about it, how can you be free if they take away your right to say “No”? Or take away your right to share in income you produce?
This is not just a problem for artists. From the viewpoint of many Internet companies, your personal information and photos are the same as the Beastie Boys music. If it draws eyeballs then corporations can use it without your consent to get rich selling advertising, like your Instagram photos, your Facebook profile, etc.
What’s happening to musicians will happen to you. Anyone who wants internet business executives to step up and treat us all as humans, stand up and say, “I am the Beastie Boys.”
East Bay Ray is the guitarist and co-founder of the band Dead Kennedys. He serves on the advisory board of the the Content Creators Coalition, an artists rights organization that enables people who create content — recording artists, songwriters, journalists, filmmakers, producers, photographers, visual artists, and performers — to join together and gain fair treatment from those who profit from their work.
The Content Creators Coalition link is http://www.contentcreatorscoalition.org/