Copyright And Parody: Debate

A parody is a production that hilariously and objectively criticises an actual work in order to reveal its shortcomings. Stand-up. Throughout history, numerous people like comedians, YouTube stars, Bloggers, actors, writers, and others have used humour as a medium of critique to express a specific message or perspective to the audience. This implies that even in order to make an effective spoof, the original work must be used.

Even though copyright law grants creators of original works some exclusive rights, like that of the right to reproduce, convey to the public, distribute, create derivative works, as well as other rights connected with the work, parody appears to be a breach of the copyright owner’s rights. A piece of parody can intrude on the author’s distribution rights, the right to publicise the work in a flattering perspective, and the moral rights that come with the author. Moral rights fundamentally preclude the altering of a copyrighted work in a way that harms the owner’s dignity and integrity.

India isn’t unfamiliar with parodies. They give a new, witty perspective on a creative job. They cater to the general public while still allowing amateur artists and designers to showcase their skills. The effect and popularity of these parodies has grown as the digital era has progressed, with videos going viral on social networking sites and the internet.

Sometimes parodies cross the ‘bridge of imagination,’ infringing on the work’s rights or outright insulting or humiliating the work or its creator. It’s crucial to differentiate between parodies and intellectual property rights.


Parody cases often occur in tort and criminal law, particularly in the field of defamation. That being said, intellectual property concerns that surround the parody debate. Parody is when someone imitates someone else’s work in order to spoof or criticise it.

Certain issues which came are:

  1. Whether that parody copyright infringement of the owner’s original work because it is an imitation? And
  2. How do laws protect both copyright owners and parodists’ rights?

It is a rule of thumb that subject matter, ideas, themes, and movie plots do not have copyright unless they are expressed differently. Copyright infringement occurs when the presentation of subject matter or a concept is identical to the original work. It’s difficult to distinguish between artistic criticism and parody in the case of ‘Parodies,’ since it’s based on the original work of another writer or artist.


Indian Copyright Act, 1957: Fair Use

Fair use is protected under Section 52(1)(a) of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957[1], which states that fair usage for any original work with aim of critique and study, whether of such a work or of any other work, doesn’t quite constitute copyright infringement.

In light of the statute, it is obvious that in order to claim the protection of fair dealing, the parodist shall demonstrate that there had been no desire to interfere with the work’s copyright holder and benefit from such competition, as well as that the suspected infringer’s purpose in dealing with the work was not inappropriate.

In M/s. Blackwood & Sons Ltd. v. A.N. Parasuraman, observed that “in order to necessarily entail a fair dealing, the alleged infringer must not have intended to compete with the copyright holder of the work and to profit from such competition, and the alleged infringer’s motive in dealing with the work must not be improper[2]”.

The Supreme Court held in RG Anand v M/S Delux Films that “one of its surest and safer method to assess whether or not there seems to be a violation of copyright is to see whether the reader, spectator, or viewer is clearly of the opinion and gets an unmistakable impression that the subsequent work appears to be a copy of the original after having read or seen both the works.”[3] The court also said where the subject is the same though is interpreted and handled differently such that the resulting work has become entirely new work then in that case there is no issue of copyright infringement arises.

In the Civic Chandran case, The object of recreation of artistic work, e.g. counter drama, was not misappropriation, to create a play identical to the original,” the Court said. Indeed, the aim was to criticise the original drama’s message and demonstrate to the audience that it had failed to accomplish its true goal. Since the copying was done for the sake of critique, it was considered fair dealing and did not breach the copyright.

In this scenario, the Court established a three-condition test that must be met before the accused infringer/parodist can claim fair use as a defence:

“[   1.The quantum and value of the matter taken in relation to the comments or criticism;

  1. The purpose for which it is taken; and
  2. The likelihood of competition between the two works.” [4]

In corresponding to the three condition test, the ‘Intent’ is an important factor to consider when it comes to parody. Making parodies of original works with the intention of commercially exploiting them or profiting from their goodwill has been clearly identified as copyright infringement.

In order to effectively invoke the fair use protection in India, a parodist must meet two requirements:

  1. He should not want to interfere with the owner of the copyright. The Market Substitution Test is another name for this.
  2. He should not use the initial in an inappropriate manner.

The underlying point of copyright is that no one really owns the copyrights to an idea. Themes, movie plots, and subject matter have no copyright until they are represented and fixed on a tangible form. It’s difficult to tell the difference between artistic criticism and imitation in parodies where the source is an original work. The court has given some clarification in this regard. The court ruled that copying for the purpose of critique is considered fair dealing and does not constitute copyright infringement.

In light of the statute, it is important. in order to claim the defence of fair dealing, the parodist would demonstrate that there had been no desire to compete with the work’s copyright holder and benefit from such competition, as well as that the suspected infringer’s purpose in dealing with the work was not inappropriate.

[1] The Copyright Act, 1957 s. 52(1)(a), No. 14, Acts Of Parliament, 1957 (India).

[2] A.I.R. 1959 Mad. 410 (India).

[3] A.I.R. 1978 S.C. 1613 (India).

[4] 1996 S.C.C. OnLine Ker. 63 (India).

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