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Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of "South Park," are under fire again for allegedly knocking off material from another site. Last month, Stone and Parker apologized for taking material for a spoof of the hit movie "Inception" from a video on collegehumor.com. This time, the producers of South Park, including Comedy Central and Viacom, are being sued for allegedly stealing material for the video "What What (In The Butt)."
However, Comedy Central says they have an applicable defense to "Butters' Butt" video: their video is a parody and fair use protects it. Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement that protects what would otherwise be a copyright violation. Generally speaking, fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances.
Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement that protects what would otherwise be a copyright violation. Generally speaking, fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder.
The original video is owned by Brownmark Films, based on a song by Samwell. It was released in 2007 and became a massive hit, with over 33 million views on YouTube. Brownmark calls South Park's "Butters' Butt" copyright infringement, and a "wilful, intentional and purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to the rights of Brownmark." They are seeking a permanent injunction as well as the maximum allowable damages.
Comedy Central replied: "Courts have consistently recognized that parody enjoys broad protections under the First Amendment and the Copyright Act. [South Park's parody] 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."
There is no doubt that the South Park video is at the very least "inspired" by the Brownmark video. It will be up to the courts to decide whether the inspiration amounts to copyright infringement or a legally protected parody.