New European Law Lets Artists Parody Copyrighted Works

Photo: Stuart Miles, via freedigitalphotos.net.
Photo: Stuart Miles, via freedigitalphotos.net.

A new copyright law is about to take effect in the European Union that will allow artists to parody copyright works, the BBC reports.

Currently, using footage from movies, television shows, or songs in a parody can be considered a breach of copyright, leaving parody creators at risk of a lawsuit. The new European Copyright Directive, which goes into effect October 1, is more permissive, allowing such material to be used in a fair manner that is not in competition with the original version.

The law still prevents parody works that convey a discriminatory message, stating that “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 humor or mockery.”

“If a parody conveys a discriminatory message (for example, by replacing the original characters with people wearing veils and people of color),” continues the law, “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.”

In an interview with the BBC, British YouTube parodist Cassette Boy likened the difficulties of creating parodies under the current iteration of the law to “being a painter in a country where paint is illegal. In the past, our work has just disappeared from the Internet overnight.”

“Artists need to be protected, but recently there’s been an automated quality to some of the legal challenges,” added comedy writer Graham Linehan. “You might do something and you know full well the author of the original work will love the thing you’re doing and see it as a tribute or friendly nod, but the lawyers—they don’t see any of that, they just see something they have to act on.”

“The thing it’s most important and useful for, is the explosion of creativity that’s come about because of the Internet and the ability to share it,” Linehan added, calling the updated legislation “a brilliant thing.”


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