Copyright law and campaign parodies

In the UK, copyright law can be a real dampener on campaign creativity, making parody and humour legally risky.

Parodying messages and branding is an obvious way of targeting and undermining a campaign target, particularly (but not only) corporates. But in the UK, copyright law makes this highly dangerous – there is no legal exception for parody, so any use of logos etc could be open to a copyright claim.

This article from the Open Rights Group explains the difference between UK and US copyright law with particular regard to parody, with detailed reference to Greenpeace's VW campaign. It makes the case for a right to parody, with reference to other legal jurisdictions where one exists (France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Australia), and outlines proposals currently under discussion, which would introduce a an exception for parody in UK copyright law.

Consumer Focus have also produced a briefing on the subject of UK copyright law and parody.

Parody campaigning does exist in the UK, where campaigners presumably believe the risk is worth taking – perhaps because the targets are unlikely to use legal tactics for fear of looking foolish, or because they might want to use the same techniques themselves on another occasion.

Some example parody campaigns at

Please post more examples below!

This article summarises a discussion on the eCampaigning Forum email list. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

by ECF Discussion Summaries published Aug 17, 2011,
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