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The meaning of Parody: Are you having a laugh?

Chris JHolland16 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.

Breaking News: New date for Quotation and Parody

Chris JHolland9 June 2014

These exceptions were delayed for further scrutiny and hence did not come into force on 1st June as planned. Both are quite significant for HE.  The quotation exception (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act Section 30) is contained in a draft Statutory Instrument  which has just been published and is due to come into force on 1st October 2014.

This is a “fair dealing” exception which permits extracts to be reproduced from any copyright work as long as this is fair dealing. That test needs to be considered carefully in each case. It is no longer restricted to “criticism and review” and now covers quotation for any purpose. The amount quoted should be no more that required for that purpose. Useful features of this exception are:

  • It applies to quotations from all media, so that it could cover the use of an extract from a film, for example.
  • Its use is not tied to a particular context: The quotation could appear in  a blog post, an academic presentation or a published book, as long as the use of the quotation can be justified in terms of fair dealing.

The Parody exception, in the form of new section 30A to the CDPA 1988, is entirely new to UK copyright law and is included in the same SI. It gives considerable leeway in terms of reproduction for purposes of caricature, parody and pastiche. This will be significant for creative work. Neither of these exceptions can be over-ridden by contract terms.