The creator of a popular YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbGkxcY7YFU) with over 47 million hits recently sued the show South Park for copying its video. Seeing as it’s a music video about anal sex, it’s no surprise that it showed up on an episode of South Park. The video’s creator argued it was copyright infringement. Judges disagreed.
Copyright law certainly protects music videos, but there are legal ways to use someone else’s work. This is called “fair use.” There are different types of fair use, and using someone else’s work for commentary or criticism is one type. Parodies are a good example of this, and that’s exactly what the court says happened in the South Park case.
Part of the consideration is how different the original is from the new version. A parody generally adds something new to an existing work. The court said the South Park version added commentary on modern culture. Specifically, it was a comment on the phenomenon of viral videos. In the episode, Butters is talked into recording the video to try and make money on the internet, which fails. The judges viewed the video and the episode side by side, and determined that the South Park version was different enough to not be a case of copyright infringement.
If you’ve seen the video, you’ll agree that it’s funny to picture these judges watching it over and over while trying to make a serious decision. The song in the video is called “What What (In the Butt)” and that phrase is repeated over and over again by the man in the video. In the South Park version, Butters sings the song dressed up in childlike costumes, like a teddy bear.
Maybe the maker of the YouTube video thought he could make some money by suing for copyright infringement. Maybe he was genuinely upset that his work was used, but I think I’d be thrilled. If you’re posting a video on YouTube, I’m assuming your goal is to get a bunch of people to watch it. Being featured on South Park is pretty good exposure. I’m sure it at least partially contributed to the video’s 47 million views.
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