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The meaning of Parody: Are you having a laugh?

ucylcjh16 October 2014

The new copyright exception for Caricature, parody and pastiche came into force on 1st October 2014. The core provision is:

“Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche does not infringe copyright in the work”

This is drawn directly from Article 5 of the EU Copyright Directive and some member states have been benefitting from the parody exception for some time. The recent Deckmyn case , was a reference from a Belgian court to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The case arises from the use made by members of a Flemish nationalist political party of an adapted version of the cover of a well known comic book in order to make a political point about the Mayor of Ghent.

The adapted version was distributed in the form of a calendar. The heirs of the creator of the original “Suske en Wiske” comic books claimed infringement of their copyright. Those distributing the calendar with the “parody” version claimed that their use of the work was covered by the exception for caricature, parody and pastiche.

The Belgian court referred a number of questions about the meaning of “Parody” in the context of the EU Copyright Directive to the CJEU. In response the Court makes various points about parody, including: “…the essential characteristics of parody, are, first, to evoke an existing work, while being noticeably different from it, and secondly, to constitute an expression of humour or mockery…”

One interesting aspect of Parody exception is the potential clash with the author’s moral right to be protected from derogatory treatment of their work, although the Court was not asked to address this question. One person’s parody could be another person’s derogatory treatment.