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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 plagiarism.
The producers of the animated show 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 music video was produced by Brownmark Films based on a song by Samwell. It was released in 2007 and became a massive hit, featured on PerezHilton.com, VH1’s Best Week Ever, and has been downloaded over 33 million times on YouTube. According to the video site, it’s one of the most watched music videos of all time.
The following year, South Park did a shot-for-shot re-creation of the video in the episode, “Canada on Strike,” starring the South Park character Butters in place of Samwell.
On Friday, Brownmark Films filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in Wisconsin District Court, 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. We contacted Viacom and will update when we hear a response.
The question would seem to be whether the South Park re-enactment is ‘fair use’ as a parody or whether the clip hewed too closely to the original. Judge for yourself. Here’s the original, the South Park version, and for good measure, a mash-up featuring Don Draper of Mad Men fame.
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