South Park Sued For Copyright Infringement of Viral YouTube Video
On November 12, Brownmark Films filed a copyright infringement suit in U.S. District Court in Wisconsin, against Viacom, Comedy Central, and the producers of South Park for alleged infringement of the music video for the viral internet sensation “What What (In the Butt).” The suit seeks a permanent injunction, as well as statutory damages. The complaint claims that the infringement was “willful, intentional and purposeful, in disregard of, and indifferent to, the rights of Brownmark.”
The original video was produced by Brownmark Films and was based on a song by Samwell. To date, it has been viewed over 33 million times on YouTube. It has also been parodied numerous times by YouTube users.
Comedy Central has provided its official statement on the lawsuit:
“Courts have consistently recognized that parody enjoys broad protections under the First Amendment and the Copyright Act. We believe ‘South Park’s’ parody of the ‘What What (In the Butt)’ viral music video that appeared in the 2008 episode of ‘South Park’ entitled ‘Canada on Strike,’ is fully protected against any copyright infringement claims under the fair-use doctrine and the First Amendment and we plan to vigorously defend those rights.”
As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit comes in the wake of a recent apology from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker for borrowing/stealing material from CollegeHumor for use in a spoof of the film Inception.
Another hat tip to The Hollywood Reporter for finding this old Q&A with the founders of Brownmark, in which they indicated their complete surprise by the South Park “homage” and state that they even sent Trey and Matt a thank-you e-mail, though they did not receive a response.
So what are your thoughts? Is the Butters version of “What What (In the Butt)” merely a parody? Or does it rise to the level of copyright infringement?