Tuesday, October 4, 2011

'Oh My God, They Sued Kenny!': South Park Wins Copyright Suit

Canada on StrikeImage via WikipediaIn Brownmark Films v. Comedy Partners et al (Case No. 10-cv-1013; 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72684), U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin Judge J.P. Stadtmueller last week found that an episode of the animated series South Park did not infringe the copyright of the viral music video of Samwell's "What What In the Butt(WWITB)."

The court held that the WWITB parody featured on South Park's April 2, 2008, episode entitled "Canada on Strike" was a protected fair use under 17 U.S.C. sec. 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The plaintiff, co-holder of the music video's copyright, sued Comedy Partners, South Park Digital Studios, MTV Networks, Paramount Home Entertainment Network, Inc. and Viacom International Inc. for the send-up of the viral video craze that incorporated a portion of the WWITB footage, without the plaintiff's permission, which included a brightly attired Samwell singing: "I said what what in the butt...you want to do it in my butt, in my butt..."  Eat your heart out, Cole Porter.

Applying the four-pronged fair use test, which involves examining the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work, Judge Stadtmueller concluded the South Park parody warranted the limited privilege provided by the fair use exception. He dismissed the complaint with prejudice.
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