Parody Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Parody, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Parody?

It refers to the humorous or mocking and amusive imitation or interpretation of already existing music, play or story in writing. Parodies are these days not considered to be challenged for copyrights unless theres profit motive.

History and Meaning of Parody

Parody is a form of humorous or satirical imitation that takes an existing work and reworks it in order to make fun of or critique it. The term can be traced back to ancient Greek theatre, where comedians would take well-known tragedies and give them a comedic twist. In modern times, parody has been used extensively in literature, music, and film, often as a means of poking fun at politicians, celebrities, or popular culture more generally.

In recent years, the legal definition of parody has become increasingly important, as copyright law has come under scrutiny for being too restrictive. In many jurisdictions, parody is now considered a legitimate exception to copyright infringement, meaning that individuals or groups can produce parodies without fear of legal repercussions, as long as they do not unduly harm the market for the original work.

Examples of Parody

  1. The television show Saturday Night Live regularly features parodies of politicians, celebrities, and other public figures. One of their most famous sketches is a recurring parody of the show Jeopardy, where the host and contestants continually misunderstand the answers.

  2. Weird Al Yankovic is a musician known for creating parodies of popular songs. His most famous parody is perhaps "Eat It," which is a take on Michael Jackson's "Beat It."

  3. The film Spaceballs is a parody of the Star Wars franchise, with many of the characters and plot points being exaggerated or turned on their heads for comedic effect.

Legal Terms Similar to Parody

  1. Satire - Satire is similar to parody in that it uses humour and exaggeration to critique something, but it doesn't necessarily rely on an existing work as its source material.

  2. Fair Use - Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows for limited use of copyrighted material without the owner's permission, as long as the use is for a transformative purpose such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

  3. Transformative Use - Transformative use is any use of a copyrighted work that adds something new and original to the original work, rather than simply copying it in its entirety. This type of use is often allowed under fair use exceptions.