"Parody has proven to be a difficult matter in copyright law, especially in the United Kingdom in recent years. This is understandable because for a parody to be successful it is necessary to take a part of the source work, otherwise the public will not understand it. When, however, this part forms a substantial part of the source, the parodist infringes copyright. It is easy to understand the problem: the parodist has to conjure up the source work, but he cannot take a substantial part.
Case law shows that courts, in the absence of legislation in this field, seem to disagree on the appropriate treatment of parody. The aim of this dissertation is to show that parody needs special treatment in copyright law. I will start by explaining what is parody and why it is important. Then I will analyse case law on parody and copyright to show the developments which have taken place, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in the United States. The next step is to consider whether the United Kingdom’s fair dealing provisions or the United States’ fair use provisions effectively address the problem. I will go on to discuss the freedom of expression difficulties which may arise in parody cases. I will also briefly comment on the law in other European countries, because the European Directive on Copyright 2001/29 gives room for special provisions and some countries made use of this. And in conclusion I will give my view on what should be the treatment of parody in copyright law.
What is parody and why is it a problem?
Almost every work on parody goes back to the origins of the word in. The word ‘parody’ comes from parôidia (παρωδια), deriving from ‘para’ and ‘odê’. ‘Para’ means beside, alongside or near. ‘Odê’ means song. The usual translation therefore is ‘a song sung alongside another’ and implies comparison between the parody and its original. But as this translation suggests neutral comparison, there are scientists who are of the opinion that ‘para’ also bears a more adversative, aggressive meaning of counter and against. With this connotation parody comes much closer to satire or burlesque, because ridicule, distortion and mockery are essential ingredients."