Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Zealand Considers Allowing Satire and Parody

New Zealand is now considering an explicit provision in its copyright legislation to allow for satire and parody.

This follows a recent amendment in Australia.

Section 41(A) of the Australian Copyright Act as amended in 2006 provides that:

A fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or with an adaptation of a literary, dramatic or musical work, does not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the work if it is for the purpose of parody or satire.
The Gowers report in the UK recommended such an amendment. The US Supreme Court confirmed in the 1994 Acuff-Rose "Pretty Woman" case that a right of parody exists under the fair use provisions in American law.

That leaves Canada alone without an actual satire or parody right or a willingness to seriously consider it amongst the major common law jurisdictions to which we normally compare ourselves. Even France, where copyright is taken very seriously, has such a right.

It is understood that the main opposition to such a right comes from certain increasingly isolated voices in the Canadian music industry, who have managed to keep the issue off the table in the last two bills.

How the denial of such a right could possibly hurt composers or music publishers is difficult to understand. There is no evidence that such a right has caused any harm in the USA in the 14 years since the Acuff-Rose decision. Indeed, the satire and parody genre has been indispensable to Western art and culture at least since the time of Aristophanes in Athens in the fifth century BC.

I guess that things take a while to percolate through in Canada.


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