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News October 27, 2015

UK parody copyright laws come into effect

From today (October 1), an amendment to the UK’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 will enable people to freely parody copyrighted material without fear of reprisal or legal challenge.

The new laws now allow UK citizens to use a “limited amount” of copyrighted material on online video platforms like YouTube. While “fair dealing” limitations apply, prior consent from the copyright holder isn’t needed for material that is “for the purposes of parody, caricature or pastiche.”

Prior to the introduction of the new amendment, British citizens that created ‘mash-ups’ or spoof videos containing unauthorised clips from film, TV and music videos did so with the risk of being sued for breaching copyright.

As of October 1, rights owners will only be able to issue a takedown notice or take legal action if the parody or satirical video contains a discriminatory message or detracts from any commercial exploitation of the copyrighted work.

In other European countries, such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, similar laws have already been put into practice. Elsewhere in the world, like in Australia and Canada, equivalent legislation exists.

In the US, online parodies are covered by “Fair Use” provisions.

According to the European copyright directive, “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.”

It further states, “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 UK legislation have been made in response to the ever-growing popularity of video parodies, comedic edits and ’mash-ups’ on online platforms such as YouTube.

In principle, the new laws allow UK creators to exercise more freedom in the creation of similar works based around copyrighted music, TV and film excerpts. In the case of parody music videos however, 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,” says a UK 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.


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