Can I Register a Musical Parody?

Most times you cannot register a Musical Parody as an original song.

 A parody occurs when one imitates a serious piece of work, such as literature, music or artwork, for a humorous or satirical effect. Parody, as a method of criticism, has been a very popular means for authors, entertainers and advertisers to communicate a particular message or point of view to the public. 

However because a parody is a method of criticism, it must inevitably make use of another creative work. Anytime you use or refer to another copyrighted work within a new original work,  prior permission from the owner of the copyright referenced in the new work is required before the commercial exploitation of a parody.

In the US, the law has ruled in some cases that the parody is considered fair use. This was the case in the mid-1990s when Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court by country music legend Roy Acuff's music publishing company against the lead singer of the rap music group 2 Live Crew for recording a lewd version of one of Acuff's songs without his permission. It was found that the commercial nature of a parody does not render it a presumptively unfair use of copyrighted material. Rather, a parody's commercial character is only one element that should be weighed in a fair use inquiry. In short, this means whether or not you can claim publishing for the parody is on a case-by-case basis.

This created a legal standard for parody as protected derivative work. However, the line is not always clear and it is best to get permission from the original copyright owner before registering a work to avoid copyright infringement (which is punishable by law). This may vary depending on your country. You can find more information on copyright law here.

Fun Fact! The most successful parodist of popular music is often considered "Weird Al" Yankovic, who gets prior permission before releasing his parodies.


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Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.