South Park just got kicked in the you-know-what-what.
According to the suit by Brownmark Films, filed in U.S. District Court in Wisconsin and obtained by E! News, the 2008 episode titled "Canada on Strike" featured the character Butters standing in a shot-for-shot recreation of Brownmark's video for the Samwell song, which became a viral sensation.
While Brownmark notes on its website that the South Park segment "introduced the 'What What' video to an even broader audience and further solidified it as a pop culture artifact," the company isn't so keen on Parker and Stone's bit two years after the fact.
(It may just be coincidence, but Parker and Stone recently came under fire for swiping dialogue from a College Humor bit for an Inception parody that aired on South Park a few weeks ago for which they later issued an apology. Or maybe it was enough that Mad Men's Don Draper has now gotten in on the "What, What" action.)
According to court papers, the defendants acknowledge that Viacom, Comedy Central and South Park Studios legally licensed the actual song, but Brownmark partners Bobby Ciraldo and Andrew Swant allege the infringement of the viral video is "willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifferent to the rights of Brownmark."
"While primarily intended as a comic art piece, Brownmark Films created the video with hopes of licensing it for wider distribution," the filmmakers said in a statement. "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."
Brownmark is asking the court to grant a permanent injunction and award it the maximum statutory damages.
(What what? Didn't they ever hear of parody? Maybe Weird Al could give them a First Amendment refresher...)
A rep for Comedy Central tells E! News the network is confident the episode in question is an example of fair use.
"Courts have consistently recognized that parody enjoys broad protections under the First Amendment and the Copyright Act," the network said in a statement. "We believe South Park's' parody...is fully protected against any copyright infringement claims under the fair-use doctrine and the First Amendment and we plan to vigorously defend those rights."