• Opportunity for advertisers, film and TV production companies and video game publishers to feature copyrighted work in their content
  • Judges will have to decide whether a parody is funny

A new European legal ruling today leaves the door open for the UK creative industries and publishers to parody work that is protected by copyright, such as films, TV programmes, books, songs, plays or computer games, says City law firm RPC.

Paul Joseph, Partner and Ciara Cullen, Senior Associate at RPC, comment on today’s ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the parody exception to copyright (Deckmyn v Vandersteen).

Says Paul Joseph: “The European Court has left the door open for the UK’s creative industries to borrow from the vast library of copyrighted works to make new works that parody the original. TV viewers should expect an explosion in new programmes using parody in the coming years.

“Creative works that make the zeitgeist, like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Breaking Bad are likely to be a hugely popular source of further parody, for everyone from advertisers to TV and computer game production companies.”

Says Ciara Cullen: “This is going to be a very useful tool for the advertising industry, as businesses use the new parody exception to have a fun dig at rivals by parodying their rival’s advertising campaigns.”

Rise in copyright disputes likely

RPC says that the new parody rules are likely to lead to an increase in copyright disputes as content owners test the limits of what constitutes a parody under the rules.

Says Ciara Cullen: “We would expect more copyright disputes and litigation in the short term as the courts clear up the grey areas, like what will constitute fair dealing of the original work and whether the parody is actually funny.”

Says Paul Joseph: “A key requirement for a publisher to claim that the parody exception protects their use of someone else’s copyright is that the new work is funny. This means that UK judges will be asked to decide whether new creative arts are funny. If the judge isn’t laughing, the creator of the new work may end up on the losing side of a copyright infringement case.”

How the parody exception might be used in the UK

Examples of how the parody exception might be used in the UK:

  • Businesses mocking rivals in their adverts by parodying their advertising campaigns.
  • TV production companies and broadcasters will be able to make programs mocking any films, TV or other copyrighted content.
  • Computer game publishers could produce games that parody popular TV programmes or films.
  • Theatre production companies could do parody plays of contemporary books, films or other plays.
  • Musicians will be able to produce songs that parody work by other musicians
  • Hosts of user generated online content, like video hosting websites,

RPC points out that UK exception for parody comes into force in just under a month, on October 1st. The ECJ ruling means that anyone will be able to parody a copyrighted work if:

  • It evokes the original work
  • It is noticeably different from the original work
  • It is humorous
  • There is a fair balance in how the parody is used.