Category Archives: Brownmark vs Viacom et al.
The online news magazine OnMilwaukee.com interviewed us about our lawsuit and just published a pretty great Q & A.
Here’s an excerpt:
OnMilwaukee.com: What do you say to people who think your lawsuit will be harmful to free speech in that parody has traditionally been protected by the first amendment?
Brownmark: We understand that fair use is an important legal concept, but the rules need to be more clear. Viacom’s position on fair use is contradictory: whenever they take copyrighted works from someone else, it is fair use; whenever someone takes copyrighted work from them, it’s copyright infringement. We don’t think Viacom should get to operate with a double-standard like that. We don’t want to prevent shows like “South Park” from doing covers of our work, we just want to make sure copyright of independent artists is respected. In this case, we don’t believe what they did counts as parody. There is a common misunderstanding that anything funny equals parody, but that’s simply not the case. At the end of the day, all that was accomplished by South Park’s use of our video was to repeat the same joke that we had already made.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BROWNMARK FILMS VS. VIACOM, ET AL
What What (In the Butt) Video Artists File Copyright
Infringement Case Against South Park
November 12th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI — Brownmark Films, the two-person production company behind the viral YouTube video What What (In the Butt), filed a copyright infringement lawsuit today against Viacom International Inc, Comedy Partners (known as Comedy Central), Paramount Pictures Corporation, MTV Networks, and South Park Digital Studios LLC.
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.
ABOUT THE VIDEO
- What What (In the Butt) has been watched over 33 million times to date on YouTube alone
- The video is currently YouTube’s #17 “Top Rated Video Of All Time” and has been listed on YouTube’s “Most Discussed Videos Of All Time” and “Most Watched Music Videos Of All Time” charts for over a year
- The video was recently licensed to Comedy Central’s hit show Tosh.0 for a Web Remix segment
- The video has received over 130,000 viewer comments so far, and has been written about in hundreds of blogs and news articles
- The video has screened in numerous film festivals and art galleries
- The video won a Pill award for Best Animation at the 2010 Pill Awards show in New York
- A feature film called What What (In the Butt): The Movie is currently in development
- For more information about the video or Samwell visit OfficialSamwell.com
Contact: Bobby Ciraldo, Andrew Swant
E-Mail: legal @ brownmarkfilms.com
Attorney of Record: Caz McChrystal