India: Legality Of Parodies: Much Ado About Nothing!!

Last Updated: 16 February 2015
Article by Zoya Nafis

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 infringement.

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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