Another lawsuit against Comedy Central’s hit show South Park could lead to a dead end. The focus of this post is to examine the fair use defense instead of the lack of similarity or likelihood that South Park was specifically referencing Exavier Wardlaw’s The Lollipop Forest.
1: What Exactly Is Going On?
On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, Exavier Wardlaw filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania naming South Park Studios, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone as defendants. Wardlaw alleges copyright infringement by the South Park executives through the use of the “Lollipop King” character in a three-episode story arc entitled Imaginationland. The episodes aired on Comedy Central in October 2007. The complaint lists the airing of the episodes as 2009, which might have been based on re-runs instead of the initial premiere.
Wardlaw created a “dramatic work and music; or choreography” called ‘Navah and Nasim and The Lollipop Forest” in 2005 according to a behind-the-scenes YouTube video and U.S. Copyright Office filing. Wardlaw filmed the work which he then put on YouTube. The copyright in the musical/ play was officially registered on March 7, 2006. You can click here and search “PAu003048246” as the “Registration Number” to see the copyright registration. Imaginationland was registered with the U.S. Copyright office on October 31, 2007, the air date of the final episode in the story arc (See registration PA0001590750).
South Park Studios combined all three episodes to release the feature-length version of ‘Imaginationland’ in 2008 and also won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.