Is parody plagiarism?

Copyright: when the reproduction of someone else’s work without the owner’s consent constitutes an exercise of the right of satire and does not violate copyright.

Using an excerpt from someone else’s work to create a parody, for example through audio dubbing or a video montage, could it constitute copyright infringement and what could be the consequences for the perpetrator of such conduct?

To determine if making a parody is plagiarism we must start from the law on copyright and the provisions contained therein. Among these it will in fact be discovered that there are cases in which it is lawful to use the work of others without necessarily having to first acquire the consent of the legitimate owner. Therefore, whoever extracts an audio fragment, an image or a video clip does not commit an offense nor can he be denounced when the exceptions contemplated by the law exist.

But what is meant by “parody”? The parody is that original creative work that draws free inspiration from a previous work, deforming its salient features and thus arriving at a work with features that are structurally different from the parodied one and often with completely opposite effects.

But let’s proceed in order and find out if and when making a parody is plagiarism and when, on the other hand, such behavior is fully lawful.

Can someone else’s work be used without infringing copyright?

For use someone else’s work or an extract of it is, in general, it is necessary to ask for theauthorization to the owner. The latter could make his consent subject to the payment of a price; it is his right to do so as the owner of creation.

Therefore, no one can appropriate someone else’s work or part of it without the consent of the relative owner. Even if this has already been published on the Internet and, on the relevant page, no prohibition is expressly provided (such as “all rights reserved“Or” reproduction is prohibited “). The work in fact is protected by law since its inception, regardless of explicit disclaimer reported by its author.

The above applies only to intellectual works (such as photos, music, videos, texts) that have “creativeThat is, they present originality that is the fruit of the inventiveness of their author. A photo taken without major measures of a road or a landscape, as well as a popular and banal tarantella can be freely reproduced by third parties as they are not protected by copyright.

When can someone else’s work be used without the owner’s consent?

L’Article 70 of the Copyright Act provides for exceptions to the use of which it is possible to use a work of others without having to ask the owner’s consent. This happens in the following circumstances.

Right to criticize

When is meant discuss of a work or “criticize it“(Not necessarily in a negative way: think of those who intend to review a book or film or who want to open a forum for a debate) summarythe citation or the reproduction of passages or parts of the work itself and its communication to the public.

Even if the law does not refer to “quantities” of freely usable works, it clearly does not have to be an integral reproduction. It is therefore necessary to respect the limits justified by these purposes and, in any case, the use must not constitute competition to the economic use of the work (think of the case of those who make a summary of a film from the beginning to the end of the same , however, removing the surprise of the ending or who synthesizes an entire book by taking the most salient parts from it and thus removing any interest in the reader to purchase the full version).

The abstract, quotation or reproduction must always be accompanied by the mention of the title of the workof the names of the author, publisher and, in the case of translation, of the translator, if such indications appear on the reproduced work.

Teaching and research

It is also permitted the summary, quotation or reproduction of passages or parts of a work if performed a teaching or scientific research purposes. In such cases, however, the use must take place for illustrative and non-commercial purposes. So, a school anthology or a research done by university students that takes passages from other books is welcome, precisely because in these cases there is no profit.

The free publication through the Internet, free of charge, of low resolution or degraded images and musicbut only for didactic use or scientific and only if such use is not for profit.

Also in this case, the summary, quotation or reproduction must indicate the title of the work, the name of the author and the publisher.

Parody: is it plagiarism?

As seen, article 70 of the copyright law does not expressly contemplate the parody among the exceptions to the need to acquire the consent of the owner of the work. However, it is believed that it can fall within the concept of discussion and criticism. Therefore, even the parody does not constitute plagiarism where it reproduces only a short extract of the work and this does not compete with the original one. Furthermore, the name of the copyright holder must always be indicated.

Article 5 of the European Directive on the harmonization of copyright (Directive 2001/29), while safeguarding copyright, provides that a work can be used without the consent of the right holder if the person who uses does it with a purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche (i.e. of imitation).

Furthermore, the right to satire is recognized and protected in the Italian legal system as a particular expression of the freedom of expression of thought and criticism and is therefore included in the scope of protection guaranteed byart. 21 cost.

In this perspective, satire is configured as a right to criticize exercised in a sarcastic and ironic form and, therefore, in relation to the intrinsic grotesque exasperation of the tones that generally distinguish it, the evaluation of the functional link between the expressive form and the critical judgment -valuation that it manifests in any case cannot imply the rigorous respect of expressive parameters based on criteria of strict rationality and adequacy generally referred to with regard to the right to criticize.

Indeed, according to the European Court of Justice [1] there parody it can be considered a work in its own right, detached from the “parodied” one (that is, from which it started) and, therefore, can be protected independently from others by plagiarism. Basically, the parody is also covered by copyright and protected by copyright law. However, for this to happen it is necessary that:

  • the parody yes distinguish clearly from the original work: the parody that is, even if it does not cover an essential element of the work, it must be easy perceptible by the viewer;
  • the parody must be substantiated in a humorous or mocking act, that is, it must be aimed at making people laugh or tease, even if in a pungent way. However, we must not cross over into the defamation of the author.

As also clarified by our internal jurisprudence [2] the work of art that makes fun of another and, to this end, transmits a clearly perceptible creative, original and autonomous message cannot be considered a counterfeit of the appropriate work, but must be considered lawful by virtue ofparody exemptionas argued by the ruling of the European Court of Justice [1]. The parody is in fact recognized as a constitutionally guaranteed right in the internal system by articles 21 and 33 of the Constitution.

According to EU Court of Justicethe copyright holder can prevent the parody of his work if it contains discriminatory messages, The parody – the judges observe – must consist of a reproduction that evokes an existing work, “while presenting perceptible differences” and must have a humorous or mocking character. On the other hand, it is not required that it has its own originality. However, in the presence of a discriminatory message, it is clear that the copyright holder can request that the protected work not be traced back to parody and be protected if he intends to distance himself from reproduction in a humorous key.


[1] C. Giust. UE sent. Deckmyr / Vandersteen C -201 -13.

[1] Court of Milan Section Industrial and Intellectual Property, 14/07/2011. Tribl. Venice Section spec. Company, 07/11/2015

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Is parody plagiarism?