Fair Use Lessons from South Park
Here is a fun case. Brownmark, a company that put together a (very silly) music video titled “What What (In The Butt)” (seriously) sued Viacom for copyright infringement over a South Park episode’s use of the music and lyrics without permission. The South Park version of the video featured Butters, a little blonde boy, singing the words of the YouTube hit.
Finding the video to be parodic, Wisconsin federal judge J.P. Stadtmueller made the rare decision to dismiss Brownmark’s case on fair use grounds before the trial began, partly because the plaintiff “wholly ignored the central issue of this litigation, fair use.”
“Such behavior,” the judge wrote, “is indicative of the efficacy of this litigation, which rightfully ends now.” Stadtmueller’s ruling could improve defendants’ chances of winning copyright cases on fair use grounds without having to waste time and money on discovery and litigation. This could effectuate the use of fair use claims more often. What what.