Intellectual Property Rights: Parody Writing And Copyright Infringement

A parody is a satirical method of criticizing popular forms of art, cultural symbols, public figures, and celebrities. Mass entertainers such as YouTubers, stand-up comedians, and actors resort to this method of censure to communicate a particular message. As a parody represents a method of criticism, it is usually reflective of someone else’s creative work.

Most artists would not allow their work to be criticized openly, even if it means gaining some publicity. Hence, creating a parody could get the creator into trouble. Though there is a fair dealing clause in the Canadian Copyright Act, a parody writer has high chances of getting sued. He should, therefore, prepare himself with the defenses in the event of a copyright infringement litigation. This includes being well-versed with their intellectual property rights. Let’s discuss the scope of Copyright law in Canada in association with parodies.

What is Fair Dealing?

Similar to the fair use clause of the American Copyright Act, fair dealing is a statutory exception in the Canadian Copyright Law which allows free use of materials protected under a copyright. Fair dealing is permissible for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire.

The parodist can use the clause of fair dealing to argue that he is not infringing someone’s copyright when criticizing or reviewing content. It is important that the parodist provide the source of their materials and the name of the artist.

What is Considered as an Infringement?

The Copyright Act of Canada sets out that anyone who tries to use an existing copyrighted creation without the permission of the owner of the work is considered to infringe. To explain this further, it is considered to be an infringement of copyright if a person:

  • Sells or rents the work of someone else without permission
  • Distributes the work which effects the owner of the copyright economically
  • By the way of trade distributes, exposes or offers the work for sale or rental, or exhibit in the public
  • Imports the work into Canada for the purpose of selling or trading

Explained simply, when an individual immorally uses someone else’s copyright as theirs, it is considered to be infringement.

When it comes to making parodies, the concept of copyright and fair use can be complex for most individuals. It is therefore recommended to hire a lawyer to discuss issues pertaining to infringement. Fair dealing does give parodists the power to utilize copyrighted materials for their purposes. But, quite often parody makers cross the line and defame the artists and their work. One needs to be mindful of the thin lines between criticism and defamation.

A good intellectual property rights lawyer will be in the best position to advise a parodist or the copyright owner regarding the repercussions of pursuing a copyright litigation.

To learn more about the complexities of the Copyright Act, get in touch with our legal team at Prowse Chowne.