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Copyright Proposals May Loosen Infringement Rules for Parody

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Government has proposed various changes to existing copyright laws for autumn 2013 following the Hargreaves report of 2011. The changes seek to introduce a variety of exceptions which will place limitations on copyright infringement for forms of copying that do not interfere with the aims and objectives of copyright law. Underlining the government’s approach is a desire to ensure that the framework for protecting copyright in the UK is flexible, modern and robust.

Although many of the proposals appear designed to help legislation keep up with technological advances in the way copyright material is stored or displayed, the relaxation of the rules on parody are noteworthy for their broader scope.

Key Proposals

The key proposals include provision for:

· Private copying 

· Education

· Quotation and news reporting

· Parody, caricature and pastiche

· Research and private study

· Data analytics for non-commercial research

· Access for people with disabilities

· Archiving and presentation

· Public administration

· Copyright notices

Parody, Caricature and Pastiche

Of particular note is the proposed insertion of a new section into the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 providing a ‘fair dealing’ exception for parody. Section 30A is currently drafted as:

“Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of parody does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that

(a) it is done in accordance with the rules of the genre;

(b) it is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement; and

(c) the work has been made available to the public.”

The aim is to obtain economic and cultural benefits by encouraging creators of parody without causing significant economic harm to the original owners of parodied content.

Parody - Will Fair Dealing be Fair?

Although proposed as a ‘fair dealing’ limitation on copyright, the changes are silent on the practicalities and copyright owners may have valid justification in questioning what exactly fair might mean. There is no attempt to define the meaning and scope of parody, and the term ‘rules of the genre’ is also ambiguous.

As it currently stands, parody that copies a substantial part of the original work requires a license from the copyright owner. If in practice the fair dealing exception removes this requirement, copyright owners such as television and music companies seem set to lose substantial license income.


It is important to note that it is only the economic rights of copyright owners that will be affected by these changes and not their moral rights. The new parody rules are likely to remove the requirement for copyright clearances in many cases and enable parodists to commercially broadcast their works. Although this may not harm copyright owners by offering a substitute work, it seems clear that parodists could be set to make significant economic gains without needing to compensate the original owners.

Copyright owners and users who are unsure about the extent of their rights or how these changes might affect them should contact James Crichton for more information; e-mail or telephone 0207 611 4848.