EXCLUSIVE: 'South Park' Sued for Stealing from YouTube
Less than a month after South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were forced to apologize for lifting material for a spoof of Inception from the website CollegeHumor, the show is again facing accusations of content theft.
The producers of the animated hit, including Viacom and Comedy Central, are being sued for allegedly ripping off a copyrighted music video for the viral phenomenon What What (In the Butt).
The video was produced by Brownmark Films based on a song by Samwell. Released in 2007, it became a massive hit and was featured on PerezHilton.com and VH1's Best Week Ever, and has been downloaded over 33 million times on YouTube. According to the site, it's one of the most watched music videos of all time.
In 2008, South Park aired a re-creation of the video in the episode Canada on Strike, featuring the South Park character Butters in place of Samwell.
On Friday, Brownmark Films filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in U.S. DIstrict Court in Wisconsin, alleging that the infringement is "willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to the rights of Brownmark."
Brownmark is seeking a permanent injunction and maximum statutory damages.
UPDATE: Comedy Central sent us its response: "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."
UPDATE #2: We found this old Q&A with the founders of Brownmark. They say they were completely suprised by the South Park "homage" (their word, not ours) and even sent Trey and Matt a thank-you e-mail.
Is the South Park use parody or copyright infringement? The question is whether the re-enactment hewed too closely to the original. Judge for yourself. Here's the original, the South Park version, and just for fun, a mash-up featuring Don Draper of Mad Men.