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Parody

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Definition Edit

A parody, in contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, or author, by means of humorous or satiric imitation.

Overview Edit

Parody may be found in art or culture, including literature, music, and cinema. Parodies are colloquially referred to as spoofs or lampoons. Or, as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court, parody is "a literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effort or ridicule."[1]

Copyright Issues Edit

Although a parody can be considered a derivative work under U.S. copyright law, it can be protected from claims by the copyright owner of the original work under the fair use doctrine, which is codified in 17 U.S.C. §107.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that parody "has an obvious claim to transformative value" because "it can provide social benefit, by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one."[2] To claim fair use protection, a parodist must use "at least some elements of a prior artist's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's work."[3] "If, on the contrary, the commentary has no critical bearing on the substance or style of the original composition, which the alleged infringer merely uses to get attention or to avoid the drudgery in working up something fresh, the claim to fairness in borrowing from another's work diminishes accordingly (if it does not vanish), and other factors, like the extent of its commerciality, loom larger."[4]

It is irrelevant whether a parody is successful, funny, or in good taste.[5] Rather, "[t]he threshold question when fair use is raised in defense of parody is whether a parodic character may reasonably be perceived."[6] For example, in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, the Supreme Court found that the hip-hop group 2 Live Crew's rendition of "Pretty Woman" was a parody of the original because it could "be taken as a comment on the naivete of the original in an earlier day, as a rejection of its sentiment that ignores the ugliness of street life and the debasement that it signifies."[7]

In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Co.,[8] upheld the right of Alice Randall to publish a parody of Gone with the Wind called The Wind Done Gone, which told the same story from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's slaves, who were glad to be rid of her.

Parodying music is legal in the U.K, United States, and Canada.

References Edit

  1. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 580 (1994)(full-text).
  2. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, 510 U.S. at 579.
  3. Id. at 580.
  4. Id.
  5. See id. at 582-83; Burnett v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 491 F.Supp.2d 962, 967 (C.D. Cal. 2007)(full-text).
  6. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, 510 U.S. at 582.
  7. Id. at 583.
  8. 252 F.3d 1165 (11th Cir.)(full-text), per curiam opinion, 268 F.3d 1257 (11th Cir. 2001)(full-text).


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