UK Copyright Law, implementing the EU Copyright Directive, provides an exception to copyright ‘for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche’. This means that in principle it is possible to create parodies that re-use works protected by copyright without having to obtain permission from the rightsholders. However, it is important to note that the use of copyright works for parody purposes is only allowed insofar as it can be considered ‘fair dealing’. How much copying from a work is fair or unfair is an issue ultimately decided by a court of law taking into account the interests and rights of the copyright owner as well as the freedom of expression of the person relying upon the parody exception. In making this decision, a court will typically take a number of different factors into account, such as the amount of the work that has been copied.
UK Copyright Law also gives creators moral rights, such as the right not to have their work subjected to ‘derogatory treatment’ (often referred to as the right of integrity). Therefore, if humorous or satirical use of a copyright work amounts to ‘derogatory treatment’ as defined by law, rightsholders may still take legal action against the parodist.
There are four broad principles to consider with respect to copyright and parody:
1. Permission should be sought when possible
2. Consider the substance of work copied
3. Commercial harm
4. The importance of freedom of expression
Erikson. K. (2016). Parody & Pastiche. Available: http://copyrightuser.org/topics/parody-and-pastiche/. Last accessed 27th April 2016.