Parodied Music and Copyright Law

Did you know that copyright law does not necessarily protect a music author from parody?  So, does that mean you shouldn’t ask artists and songwriters for permission?  You should always ask for their  blessing, but more as a courtesy and not as legal requirement.  It’s been my experience that artist management will often ignore a person’s request for permission to use a song for a parody.  Just know, if you don’t get permission, you may find yourself in court even though use of songs for parodies does not fall under copyright infringement as was the case with 2 Live Crew and their parody of Roy Orbison’s song; Oh Pretty Woman; “”The members of the rap music group 2 Live Crew—Luther Campbell, Fresh Kid Ice, Mr. Mixx and Brother Marquis—composed a song called “Pretty Woman,” a parody based on Roy Orbison’s rock ballad, “Oh Pretty Woman.”  The group’s manager asked Acuff-Rose Music if they could get a license to use Orbison’s tune for the ballad to be used as a parody. Acuff-Rose Music refused to grant the band a license but 2 Live Crew nonetheless produced and released the parody.”

 So why can you use someone else’s recorded and written material without permission and then parody it?  Well, it’s called “Fair Use.”  According to Wikipedia; “Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In US Copyright, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.”

Copyright law is confusing and subjective BUT it seems that parodies are most often NOT considered to be infringing on an artists copyright.  There are other factors when determining whether or not something falls under  “Fair Use.”  Please do your research, be considerate, and if you are considering doing a parody of a song, there is hope but you should always consult with a professional copyright attorney just in case!

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