South Park, Viacom Sued Over Parody Video... Videomakers Point To YouTube Lawsuit In Defense

from the yeah,-that's-not-going-to-work dept

Justin Loban was the first of a whole bunch of you to send in the news of video producers Brownmark Films suing South Park, Viacom, Paramount and others over a parody video shown in South Park. The original (quite viral) video was the "What What (In The Butt)" video:
This was, of course, a huge viral sensation a few years ago. It currently has over 34 million views. South Park parodied it all the way back in April of 2008, with the following:
Now, there are a few oddities about the whole thing. First, it's not clear why they waited over two and a half years to sue. That's got to work against them. Also, apparently, Viacom did license the song. The singer/songwriter (if you can call it that), Samwell, is not a part of the lawsuit. Brownmark were just the folks who made the video, and they're saying that their copyright was infringed also. In fact, if you watch the original video, you'll see that they've even added a popup telling people that Samwell isn't suing South Park, and in the description they state:
SAMWELL IS NOT SUING SOUTH PARK.
Brownmark Films is NOT Samwell. It is a music video production company.
Samwell is not involved, so please try to be nicer to him!
The whole "please try to be nicer to him" thing is kind of strange, and suggests that Brownmark knows what a ridiculous lawsuit this is. Separately, Viacom has responded by pointing out that parody is protected and is not copyright infringement. Obviously, the whole thing seems a little silly, and feels partly like it might be a publicity stunt by the two guys at Brownmark.

However, there is one other interesting note. In the press release announcing the lawsuit, Brownmark points out that there's a certain irony in the fact that Viacom was "copying" content from YouTube at the same time it was suing YouTube for posting copies of Viacom content:
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 corporationsí continued reliance on double-standards, a decision made all the more difficult by Brownmark Films' respect for South Park and its brand of humor.
All that said, this lawsuit seems like it will go nowhere extremely fast. The video is clearly a parody video, and I can't see how the videomakers have any chance of convincing a court otherwise.


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  1.  
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    Hulser (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 9:51am

    Not strange at all

    The whole "please try to be nicer to him" thing is kind of strange, and suggests that Brownmark knows what a ridiculous lawsuit this is.

    I think it simply suggests that Samwell's representatives are sick of him getting blamed for something he didn't do. It's not Brownmark, but Samwell who knows what a ridiculous lawsuit this is.

     

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  2.  
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    Benny6Toes (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 9:53am

    Maybe that's the point?

    it's possible that the entire point of the lawsuit is to sine a very bright light on what Viacom is doing regarding youtube. let's face it: the average person doesn't care that Viacom is issuing takedowns that it shouldn't be, and no amount of advertising is likely to change that.

    however, sue Viacom (and one of it's most popular and well known franchises) for the same reasons that they're going after youtube, and now you've got instant publicity and people taking an interest because it directly relates to something they're invested in.

    maybe that's a stretch (and an expensive one, at that), but that might be the whole point of the suit...

     

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  3.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 10:26am

    Re: Maybe that's the point?

    That makes sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    trilobug, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 10:29am

    But...but...

    I thought parody was protected speech.

     

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  5.  
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    Eugene (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 10:55am

    It sounds like their heart is in the right place, but their heads are completely up their asses.

     

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  6.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:26am

    Wait. What?

    "The singer/songwriter (if you can call it that)"

    Oh come on, Mike. There was no reason for that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:35am

    Who's on first?

    So, my question is: how many DMCA takedown notices has Viacom issued for parody videos? I don't know, but would be interested if anyone else does.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 12:32pm

    Ah who says Mike doesn't have a sense of humor. I saw this and what? Southpark and not a article on depicting Mohamed? Gata love those guys.

     

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  9.  
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    Lisa from New York, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Parody means?

    No one seems to be talking about what exactly Parody means. Is something parody simply because it's funny? Weird Al makes parodies, but he changes a LOT of the originals. What if you copied a Weird Al song? Can you parody a parody? These are interesting and complex questions, but most people simply think that, if it's on South Park, it's parody. I think it's more nuanced, and I think the people suing know this.

     

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  10.  
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    abc gum, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 6:01pm

    Re: Parody means?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    The eejit (profile), Nov 20th, 2010 @ 3:52am

    Re: Parody means?

    Hey, look! Maybe, just maybe, the lawsuit is a parody of a lawsuit that's a parody of a lawsuit of a parody of a lawsuit......

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Rich, Nov 20th, 2010 @ 6:31am

    I don't get it

    This video went viral? I guess that's why I don't work in the entertainment industry. I just don't get it. Of course, I can always tell when a TV show is going to get canceled, because I'll like it. If it's god-awful, like any of the numerous "reality" shows out there, it will get high rating. Ugh.

     

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  13.  
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    Bluezy (profile), Nov 21st, 2010 @ 12:46am

    Huh?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    dizi izle, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 12:52pm

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Him ThatIs (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Maybe that's the point?

    I believe you nailed it. In order for Viacom to protect themselves in this lawsuit, they have to defend Brownmark. Otherwise they lose all standing in their harrasements of YouTube. Brownmark has put them in a Catch 22. I believe they knows the lawsuit is bogus and are only doing it to hurt companies [like Viacom] that use their muscle on others.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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