Parody is a humorous or satirical imitation of an original work.
In its very outset parody is meant for comical or ridiculing
purpose. With the advancement of technology, making and publishing
parodies online have become easier. Few websites or portals operate
focussing on parodies only. The debate on legality of parody and
its relationship with the intellectual property law is always open
as substantial amount of work is copied and used. However, the
determination whether such copying is infringement or is exempted
under the defence of fair use or does it affect the moral rights of
the owner, is very subjective and differs from case to case.
Parody and Copyright
Indian Copyright law is silent on the issue of parody. Parody
attracts liability under copyright law as substantial part of the
original work is copied in parody so as to enable the public to
connect it with the original work. Copying of the copyrighted work
is an infringement under the law. Though not specifically
mentioned, parody may be protected as fair use as it does not pose
any threat to the original work.
There are four factors which are used to determine whether an
act constitutes as fair use or not. Let us examine parody in terms
of these factors:
Amount of the act:Amount and substantiality of the work
copied from the original or copyrighted work plays an important
role while judging fair use. In order to be an infringement, there
must be substantial copying of the work. Parodies do copy a
substantial amount from the original work and this could turn out
to be an issue under copyright law, however parodies do not pose
any direct harm to the original work. Substantial amount of the
original work is copied in case of parody so as to allow the
audience to connect the parody to the original work.
Purpose of the work copied: The next factor is the
purpose of such copying. This factor investigates into the motive
of the use. Indian Copyright Law itself under Section 52 enlists
certain acts which constitute fair use like research, criticism and
review etc. Parody as such is not there in the list but it is to be
remembered that parodies simply mock at the original work. They
just intend to ridicule the original work without expecting any
commercial gain out of it.
Nature of the act: This requires an inquiry into the
character of the work. Parodies are intended to be comical and are
created just for fun.
Effect of the act: While considering the effect of the
copying it is important to consider whether there is any likelihood
of competition of that copied work with the original work. Parodies
appeal to the sense of humour of the audience and do not intend to
compete with the original work. There is generally no purpose to
gain benefit out of such act.
This analysis concludes that it is difficult to cover parodies
as infringement and can be defended as a fair act. It is a kind of
a criticism done in a comical way.
Parody and Moral Rights
Moral Rights are special rights with the owner of the
copyrighted work that remain with them even after the copyright
term has expired. Moral rights protect the original work from any
kind of mutilation or distortion.
Parodies are comical in nature. They criticize, entertain but do
not mutilate the work. The non-rivalrous nature of copyright law
i.e. the importance of the original is not lost because of the
copied work, also defend the parody culture.
Parody and Trademarks
Criticism is very important. As it is said, it is good to be
talked about rather being never talked about, parodies have
their own advantages. The main objective of trademark is to avoid
any confusion among products and to enable the consumers to
distinguish between products of different brand, quality etc.
Parodies do not create any confusion. They do not cause any direct
harm to the market of the trademarked product; instead they at
times raise awareness of the trademarked product.
In India, no major jurisprudence is available in regard to
parody. It is fine to say that parodies spice up our ways to look
at the creative work. It not only appeals to the public but such
spoofs provide opportunity to amateur creators to display their
talent. However, many people get offended by parodies and take them
as mutilation of their original work. Therefore, it is pertinent to
strike out a balance between parodies and intellectual property
In Blackwood & sons v A.N. Parasuraman (AIR 1959 Mad
410), the court held that while determining the character of
parody it is very important to figure out whether the use so done
wishes to compete with the original work of the creator.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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