Does Copyright Law Protect Parody?

Contact UsAsk A Free Legal Question

business owner bills

Your take on an original work may be parodying another one. However, it is likely that the owner of the other original work may get upset over this or may even blame you for infringing upon their protected copyright. For this reason alone, you must thoroughly think through your decision to publicize your parody work. Read on to discover whether federal copyright law protects your parody work and how a seasoned New Jersey copyright lawyer at The Ingber Law Firm can help you avoid infringement accusations or legal actions.

What are examples of parodies?

Under the lens of copyright law, a parody is defined as an artistic mode of expression, usually in the form of a comedic commentary, that imitates or mocks another work. Of note, this differs from satire, which offers commentary and criticism about the world in addition to the other piece of original work.

A common example of a parody in literature is “Pride and Prejudice with Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith emulating the original “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. An example of a parody in pop culture is when Saturday Night Live does skits of fake newscasts that are supposed to poke fun at real newscasts that have been broadcasted.

Does federal copyright law protect my parody work?

When you decide to publicize your parody work, you must know, full and well, that you are taking a great risk. That is, you must understand that you are making yourself vulnerable to a potential legal conflict with the owner of the original work you are imitating or mocking. This is to say that you must go into this knowing the protections your parody work may be afforded.

For one, the First Amendment may protect your parody work by considering it a form of free speech or expression. With this, you may argue that your work expresses a message or point of view distinctly different from that of the original work. Overall, you may claim that it contributes to public debate, discourse, interest, or concern in a unique way.

In addition, federal copyright law may protect your parody work by considering it a form of fair use. This may apply depending on your parody work’s purpose and character of use; the nature of the original work in question; the amount and substantiality of the portion of the original work you use; and the effect of your use on the potential value of the original work; among other factors. With this, you may argue that you are allowed to use a limited portion of the original work for commentary or criticism. Further, you may claim that your finite use of the original work is transformative, novel, distinct, etc.

In conclusion, you should not create a parody work without the strong legal representation of a competent Essex County, New Jersey intellectual property lawyer. Contact our office, The Ingber Law Firm, today.