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Parody and third party owned copyright materials - the laws they are a changing

On 1st October 2014 UK copyright law will be amended, so as to allow for use of copyright works for the purpose of parody, provided that the use constitutes "fair dealing". Thus, such use should not conflict with the normal exploitation of the said copyright work and should not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner.

This follows hot-on- the-heels of the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the recent Deckmyn case. In this case, the Court made it clear that the essential characteristics of a parody are, first, to evoke an existing work, while being noticeably different from it and, secondly, to constitute an expression of humour or mockery. However, the parody must strike a fair balance between the person producing the parody and the person's whose work has been parodied, the later having, for example, a legitimate interest in ensuring their work is not associated with a discriminatory message.

Some commentators believe that the change in the law will allow brand owners to cause mischief by parodying other brand owner's brands and advertising campaigns. However, others appear to consider the new defence to be a narrow one, although until the Courts have heard a few test cases the position remains unclear.

It should be noted that the change to UK copyright law does not affect the UK's existing registered trade mark and defamation laws, which, in certain cases, could still be relied upon to prevent works of parody.

Thus, make sure you get some good legal advice before you start using a planned parody to mock another brand owner's brand or advertising campaign.

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