Frame Menu

Copyright and Parody: Legal Analysis and Empirical Evidence

Two reports commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) on parody and pastiche. The reports form part of a three-report sequence on parody published by the UKIPO in March 2013. The three reports/studies commissioned by UKIPO evaluate policy options in the implementation of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property & Growth (2011).

Study I authored by Dr. Kris Erickson presents new empirical data about music video parodies on the online platform YouTube.

Study II authored by Dr. Dinusha Mendis and Professor Martin Kretshcmer offers a comparative legal review of the law of parody in seven jurisdictions.

Study III authored by Dr. Kris Erickson, Professor Martin Kretschmer and Dr. Dinusha Mendis provides a summary of the findings of Studies I & II, and analyses their relevance for copyright policy.

All three reports can also be found at the Intellectual Property Office website.

Study I presents new empirical data about music video parodies. A sample of 8,299 user-generated music video parodies was constructed relating to the top-100 charting music singles in the UK for the year 2011.

Study II discusses of the legal treatment of parodies in seven jurisdictions that have implemented a copyright exception for parody. The jurisdictions include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, UK, and USA. Study II identifies possible regulatory options for benefiting from a parody exception to copyright infringement, and distils the (economic and non-economic) rationales developed by legislators and courts. The report concludes by setting out a list of policy options.

Study III brings together the legal analysis and the empirical data. Each of the policy options identified in Study II is examined for its likely impact on the empirical sample gathered in Study I.

The research team comprising of Dr. Kris Erickson, Dr. Dinusha Mendis and Professor Martin Kretschmer presented the following key findings arising from the three Studies:

  • Parody is a significant consumer activity: On average, there are 24 user-generated parodies available for each original video of a charting single.
  • There is no evidence for economic damage to rights holders through substitution: The presence of parody content is correlated with, and predicts larger audiences for original music videos.
  • The potential for reputational harm in the observed sample is limited: Only 1.5% of all parodies sampled took a directly negative stance, discouraging viewers from commercially supporting the original.
  • Observed creative contributions were considerable: In 78% of all cases, the parodist appeared on camera (also diminishing the possibility of confusion).
  • There exists a small but growing market for skilled user-generated parody: Parodists who exhibit higher production values in their works attract larger audiences, which can be monetized via revenue share with YouTube.