Although South Park’s recent, openly admitted plagiarism of a College Humor Inception spoof ended with that video’s creators basically acting like they were just thrilled someone watched it, the incident seems to have opened the door for a similar accusation of thievery by the makers of viral hit “What What (In The Butt),” which the show parodied back in 2008 during the episode “Canada On Strike.” A copyright infringement suit has now been filed by that video’s producers, Brownmark Films—which, if this were a TV show where writers were creating the name for a production company behind “What What (In The Butt),” “Brownmark Films” would be rejected as “too broad”—who released the video in 2007, based on a song by Samwell.
According to Samwell’s official bio, the singer licensed the song “What What” to the show (and seemed pretty excited when the episode premiered), but Brownmark believes—after two years of deep consideration, apparently—that the parody of its video was “willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to the rights of Brownmark,” and is seeking both “a permanent injunction and maximum statutory damages” from Viacom. In other words, it wants to do Viacom in the butt.
Here's the original video and the spoof in question:
UPDATE: Brownmark has issued an official statement through Samwell's website, essentially reaffirming that while Samwell did legally license the song, as mentioned before, their "shot-for-shot recreation" of the accompanying video—which they did not license—amounts to copyright infringement. The statement in part:
Brownmark Films claim that their music video, a comically innocuous portrayal of the song’s salacious lyrics, was used in an episode of Comedy Central’s South Park without permission. The episode, entitled “Canada on Strike” contains a shot-for-shot recreation of significant portions of the What What (In the Butt) video. The episode satirizes the 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike and illegally appropriated Brownmark Films’ video in order to do so. While Brownmark Films was never contacted by Comedy Central for use of the video, it is believed that the song “What What (In the Butt)” was legally licensed through its respective copyright owner.
Unlike most music videos, which are financed by the artist’s record label to be used as a promotional tool for the recording, What What (In the Butt) was produced jointly by Brownmark Films and Samwell, then an unsigned musician with an unpublished song. While primarily intended as a comedic art piece, Brownmark Films created the video with hopes of licensing it for wider distribution. The defendants’ unwillingness to license the video legitimately amounts to a statement on their part that the artists behind independently produced Internet videos are undeserving of compensation for their work.
In a time when corporations like Viacom are actively pursuing billion dollar judgements against video distribution sites such as YouTube, it is unreasonable for those same corporations to treat the Internet as a bottomless well from which it can endlessly draw content without permission, payment, or even acknowledgment of the original artists. Brownmark Films is taking a stand against these corporations’ continued reliance on double-standards, a decision made all the more difficult by Brownmark Films’ respect for South Park and its brand of humor.
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