South Park’s Use of WWIB Video Deemed Fair Use

A Wisconsin federal court judge dismissed a case against the makers of South Park where the plaintiff had alleged a copyright violation of its use of an Internet viral video, What What in the Butt.  In the April 2008 episode, “Canada on Strike,” character Butters Stotch “replicates parts of the WWITN video with the nine year old Butters singing the central lines of the original video while dressed as a teddy bear, an astronaut, and even a daisy…”
The case is Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners, et al. (E.D. Wisc. July 6, 2011) and the order is here.
Quotes from the opinion:
“For as remarkable and fascinating the parties and issues surrounding this litigation are, this order, which will resolve a pending motion to dismiss, will be, by comparison, frankly quite dry.”
“…the central issue is whether this court can resolve a motion to dismiss in the defendants’ favor because of the existence of the affirmative defense of fair use.”
“…the court needs to decide whether the defendants use of the copyrighted material in the context of the episode “Canada on Strike” is fair use.”
“The fair use doctrine allows for a limited privilege in those other than the owner of a copyright to use the copyrighted material in a reasonable manner without the owner’s consent.”
“Here, applying the statutory factors from Section 107 of the Copyright Act and the principles behind the fair use doctrine, the court readily concludes that the defendants use of the music video in the South Park episode ‘Canada on Strike’ was ‘fair.’ One only needs to take a fleeting glance at the South Park episode to gather the “purpose and character” of the use of the WWITB video in the episode in question. The defendants used parts of the WWITB video to lampoon the recent craze in our society of watching video clips on the internet that are — to be kind — of rather low artistic sophistication and quality.”
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