U.K. Parody Laws Set to Come Into Effect
A small but significant change to U.K. legislation comes into effect Wednesday (Oct. 1) that will enable people to freely parody copyright protected video, film and TV works without fear of reprisal…
A small but significant change to U.K. legislation comes into effect Wednesday (Oct. 1) that will enable people to freely parody copyright protected video, film and TV works without fear of reprisal or legal challenge.
The new laws – actually an amendment to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 — allows U.K. citizens to use “a limited amount” of copyrighted material on online video platforms such as YouTube “for the purposes of parody, caricature or pastiche” without the prior consent of the copyright holder, although it’s important to note that “fair dealing” limitations do apply.
Previously, British citizens creating parody ‘mash-ups’ or spoof videos using unauthorized clips from film, TV and music videos were at risk of being sued for breach of copyright and criminal prosecution.
From tomorrow (Oct.1), owners of copyrighted works will only be able to issue a takedown notice or take legal action if the parody or satirical video conveys a discriminatory message, or it detracts from any commercial exploitation of the copyrighted work.
Similar laws are already in place in other EU countries, such as France, Germany and the Netherlands. Outside the EU, Australia and Canada also has equivalent legislation, while certain online parodies are covered in the U.S. by “Fair Use” provisions.
“The only, and essential, characteristics of parody are, on the one hand, to evoke an existing work while being noticeably different from it and, on the other, to constitute an expression of humour or mockery,” states the EU copyright directive.
“If a parody conveys a discriminatory message (for example, by replacing the original characters with people wearing veils and people of colour), the holders of the rights to the work parodied have, in principle, a legitimate interest in ensuring that their work is not associated with such a message.”
The changes in U.K. legislation have been made in response to the fast-growing popularity of video parodies, comic re-edits and ‘mash-ups’ on online platforms such as YouTube.
One of the most prolific makers of music parodies is Bart Baker, whose spoof of Miley Cyrus‘ “Wrecking Ball” has amassed over 50 million YouTube views. Barker has also produced satirical versions of Katy Perry‘s “Dark Horse” (50 million views) and Taylor Swift‘s “22” (22 million views), among many others. Famously, Psy‘s “Gangnam Style” inspired hundreds of parody videos, which, in turn, arguably helped fuel its global sales.
Not all musical parodies have been historically welcomed by rights holders, however. In 2010, “Newport State Of Mind,” a Welsh parody of “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys and Jay Z was taken down by YouTube following a widely-reported copyright claim by EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
In principle, the new laws provide U.K. creators with more freedom to create similar works based around copyrighted music, TV and film excerpts, although in the case of parody music videos, where copyright protected recorded music is used, a license from the rights holder must still be acquired.
“Fair dealing allows you only to make use of a limited, moderate amount of someone else’s work,” states a U.K. government guide detailing the new copyright exceptions.
“This means it is very unlikely that someone could copy a whole unchanged work, without permission from the copyright owner. For example, it would not be considered “fair” to use an entire musical track on a spoof video,” the Intellectual Property Office guidance goes on to state.