Satire and Parody: A Balancing Act

New Zealand currently has no specific exception for parody or satire under the Copyright Act 1994 although a discussion document was intended to be released 10 years ago.

A private members bill, the Copyright (Parody and Satire) Amendment Bill has been introduced. The Bill is intended to amend the current limited fair dealing exception for criticism, review and news reporting by extending the fair dealing provisions to expressly cover parody and satire. The fair dealing exception currently allows the use of a copyright work for the purposes of criticism or review of the work but only provided the use is accompanied by  sufficient acknowledgement. This does not sit well with parody.

The Bill intends that there will be no infringement of copyright in a work for fair dealing with that work for the purposes of criticism or review if the purpose is for parody or satire.

Does it go far enough ?

  • The continued limitation of this fair dealing exception to purposes of “criticism or review” will not rubber stamp the use of satire and parody including say in marketing activities, some other forms of comedy and other activities where the purpose may not be for criticism or review.
  • Even when considering use for a limited type of work such as comedy, parody and satire does not cover all ways in which the work could be used, so when it is being used by a rival network in another manner, this potentially could lead to claims from say the network which originated the work– the counter argument to statutory exceptions being of course that the copyright owner should be able to fully control use, that a licence should be obtained/fee paid for the use, but in reality often one producer or rights owner will not want another to use their work in any manner, so consent to use may not be granted.
  • Even when the purpose is for criticism or review,  consideration needs to be given to how parody or satire that amounts to a derogatory treatment of a work will be dealt with – one moral right of the author or film director (rather than the copyright owner) is the right not to have relevant work subjected to derogatory treatment. This is different to copyright infringement and therefore outside the proposed exception.

The Bill has undergone its first reading.


Christopher Young

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