Attention Mashable: A Rat in the House Might Eat Turnips in Church

Nothing says internet freedom like getting away with it, and that disruptive spirit was front and center at Mashable today.  Yes, the strong team of fact checkers at Mashable allowed this story to go out under their brand: Never Mind the [1,100] Lawyers, GoldieBlox Won Big in the Beastie Boys Fight.  We’ll get to commenting next week about the absolutely corrupt mentality behind that headline, but first I want to focus on the crux of the story:

…GoldieBlox appears to have benefited from using the [Beastie Boys’] song [“Girls”] without permission. Before the company pulled the first version of the ad, it had racked up 9 million views. While it’s hard to say what the value is of such a viral video, a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on ad revenues from the song Gangnam Style (about $1.7 million for 1 billion views) reveals that the figure is around $156,000.

Assuming a similar arrangement (with Google getting about half the ad dollars), GoldieBlox should make about $78,000 in ad revenues from the viral ad.

Of course, the real value of the video is how much it promotes GoldieBlox’s business.

So it appears that the way that Mashable got to these numbers is as follows (if I’m wrong, please let me know):

$1.7 million paid in ad revenue for 1 billion views.  Divide $1.7 million by 1 billion to get to a per-view rate of $0.0017.

Then take the number of views of the Goldiblox video and multiply it by PSY’s imputed gross ad revenue per play.

9,000,000 x $0.0017 = $15,300.

Assume that the revenue share Google paid for what is (I think) the most viewed music video in YouTube’s short history is the same as would be paid to a start up for a commercial.   (The money made from Gangnam has been the subject of a good deal of obfuscation by Google as we tried to dissect in this post.)

So multiply that $15,300 by 50% to calculate GoldieBlox’s revenue share and you get to $7,650.

Well wait.  Seems like Mashable’s $156,000 is off by a rounding fraction and a factor of 10 (156,000 instead of 15,300).

And then there’s this question of whether the GoldieBlox video was monetized on YouTube in the first place (which it wasn’t as far as I can tell).  Advertisers don’t usually monetize their videos with other people’s advertising.  If it wasn’t monetized, I would assume that the revenue to GoldieBlox would be zero (although Google would get the benefit of the traffic for free).

But even if you didn’t know anything at all about how YouTube screws…sorry, accounts…to artists and songwriters, wouldn’t it seem a little odd that a video that had 9,000,000 views in a few days could make $78,000 for a single song?  In a few days?  This is Google, remember.  I wonder what payout that would imply across all views on monetized videos per day?  A lot.  Even for Google.  If you’ve ever gotten a royalty check from YouTube you know that these people round up to zero.  So just based on the optics, that number doesn’t seem right.

Then consider how much the legal fees were to have GoldieBlox’s massive top flight, old-line law firm (Orrick–1,100 lawyers in 25 countries) file a declaratory relief action given the number of Orrick lawyers on the complaint.  I estimate that’s a combined billing rate of about $2,000 per hour, but that could be high or low.

So is $7,650 the number that explains why all this mishegas went down?  Even $78,000? Or is it the PR value of litigation, because as Mashable said, the real value of the video is how much it promotes GoldieBlox’s business.


This is how GoldieBlox “won big.”  Not social commentary, not parody, not respect for the Beastie Boys or MCA, not any of that.  GoldieBlox is playing the Silicon Valley game, and Silicon Valley is about one thing: cold, hard cash.  Preferably scraped out of the pockets of the public in an IPO before the last fool exits the market.

And you know who would be able to put a value on the Court’s time for participating in this kabuki dance?

3 thoughts on “Attention Mashable: A Rat in the House Might Eat Turnips in Church

  1. Let’s not forget that all YouTube videos are enabled for downloadeding (a copy of them) using Mozilla’s add-on to Firefox called Video DownloadHelper, but Google/YouTube has asserted under penalty 18 USC § 1621 that “no[] downloads” occur in the Viacom case (see Google/YouTube’s 3/11/2010 Memorandum of Law, Page 93, Line 9-12 signed by Andrew Shapiro in the Viacom case). Clearly this belying cannot be unnoticed any longer.

    And all of this is financially facilitated through Amex, Visa, MC (and others) using PayPal and Google/Wallet. Add to that the number of non-human computer bots that act as “views” simply to bump up numbers, embedding copyrighted theft to other websites using URLs that violate 15 USC § 1125(d), copies are uploaded, copies of the copy are downloaded.

    Repeal the DMCA.


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