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When does a parody violate your copyright?

On Behalf of | Jan 14, 2022 | Copyright Law

As a musician, you work hard to create the music that you produce. Finding out that someone has made a parody of your song might be funny, but at the same time, it may make you feel like you’re losing out on income from your music.

Parodies have long been normal in music. Since a parody is a way of criticizing something, it makes sense that it would have to use an original work in some way. However, there is a difference between creating a legal parody and simply stealing someone else’s copyright.

Those who make parodies should get permission first

In the majority of cases, it is necessary for copyright owners to give permission for someone to make a parody using their music. For example, if someone wants to use your music, you may offer them a license to do so.

Some parodists use the fair-use defense to argue that their parodies are acceptable without permission. This normally isn’t a good defense unless the new work is a valid parody and the court agrees with that assessment.

It is more likely for the parodist to get away with using your copyrighted work if they are not using a substantial portion of it. For instance, using a few bars of background music might be acceptable, but it would be less acceptable to take an entire chorus without getting the writer or singer’s permission.

A judge will consider the impact of the parody on the copyrighted work, too. If the copyrighted work is harmed by the parody, then it is more likely that you, as the copyright holder, will be successful with your case.

It has to be said that musical copyrights are complex, and parodies add to the complexity of cases when fair use is in question. To avoid this kind of problem, many artists will offer licensing for their music, so parodists are encouraged to pay appropriately for the music they’re using. That’s one option, but if your music has already been stolen, then you may want to look into taking legal action to seek compensation for any parody that was created.