Facilitating a proposed amendment to parody copyright law by evidencing the economic, social and cultural potential
Submitting InstitutionBournemouth University
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Law and Legal Studies: Law
Summary of the impact
Parody of music videos, television shows and other media is not permitted
under UK intellectual property law. In 2011, the Intellectual Property
Office (IPO) commissioned Bournemouth University (BU) to study the
economic effects of parody on commercial rights holders. The research
found the process does not have negative impacts on the market and in many
cases contributes to the commercial success of original works. The study
identified further social and cultural benefits. In 2012, the Government
adopted BU's recommendations to change the law and proposed a copyright
exception for parody, making it exempt from copyright laws.
The underpinning research was initiated in December 2011, following a
successful bid to the IPO to conduct a study supporting the Government
consultation on the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property. The
successful bid was led by Erickson (BU 2010-2013), with co-applicants
Kretschmer (BU 1999-2012) and Mendis (2011 to present) and produced two
government reports (P1&P2) and a further paper bringing together of
the legal analysis and the empirical data (P3).
The purpose of the research was to assess the economic impact commercial
rights holders would experience if their work could be freely parodied
under copyright law. The government had no rigorous evidence on the
potential commercial effects of such a copyright exception, so could not
make a sound policy judgement.
The commissioned research was the first large-scale empirical study of
the economic effects of parody carried out in the UK. The BU team
undertook a comparative study of commercial music videos and amateur
parodies on YouTube, selected for its status as the leading online video
platform. The researchers sampled 8,299 pieces of user-generated content
relating to top-100 charting music singles in the UK for the year 2011 to
determine whether economic effects were caused by the presence of parody
The study noted that parody was a fluid and changing communicative
process, so researchers selected videos that were tagged and defined as
such by the uploading user. Four different categories of parody emerged:
Target parody, which targeted a particular person or organisation; Weapon
parody, which drew attention to a third party such as a political group;
Self-parody and parody that had no obvious purpose. All videos were new
work using original work for a new purpose.
The study yielded the following findings:
- Parody and remix are significant online consumer activities: On
average, there are 24 user-generated parodies available for each
original commercial music video. Parodies in this study had 655 million
- There is no evidence for economic harm to rights holders through
either substitution or reputational damage: The presence of parody
content is correlated with larger audiences for original music videos.
- New creative input by parodists is considerable: Most added original
new video recordings, and in 78% of all cases the parodist appeared on
- There exists a small but growing market for this type of online
parody: Parody videos in the study generated up to £2million in revenue
through advertising, a portion of which was shared with creators and
rights holders. The BU research valued advertising revenue at £10s of
P2 offers a comparative legal review of the law of parody in seven
jurisdictions and P3 reviews the previous findings and analyses their
relevance for copyright policy.
On the basis of this evidence, the research team recommended that the IPO
and the Government move ahead with a planned copyright exception for
parody, on the grounds that it would offer small but measurable economic
benefits to both rights holders and parodists, in addition to other social
and cultural benefits.
References to the research
P1. Erickson, K. (2013). Evaluating the impact of parody on
the exploitation of copyright works: An empirical study of music video
content on YouTube. London: Intellectual Property Office UK. Report
no. 2013/22. Available from: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearch-parody-report1-150313.pdf
[accessed 21 November 2013].
P2. Mendis, D. and Kretschmer, M. (2013). The treatment of
parodies under copyright law in seven jurisdictions: A comparative
review of the underlying principles. London: Intellectual Property
Office UK. Report no. 2013/23. Available from: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearch-parody-report2-150313.pdf
[accessed 21 November 2013].
P3. Erickson, K., Mendis, D. and Kretschmer, M. (2012). Copyright
and the Economic Effects of Parody: An empirical study of the YouTube
platform and assessment of regulatory options. London: Intellectual
Property Office UK. Report no. 2013/24. Available from: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearch-parody-report3-150313.pdf
[accessed 21 November 2013].
G1. Intellectual Property Office UK (2011). Government
Consultation on Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property: Work Package
4, Parody, Caricature and Pastiche (£16,650). Researchers: Erickson,
Kretschmer and Mendis.
G2. ESRC (2013). Valuing the Public Domain: Collaboration and
Knowledge Exchange to Develop Policies for the Commercial Use of Public
Domain Works (£103,000). Researchers: Kretschmer and Erickson.
Details of the impact
The most direct and immediate impact of the research was to shape the
language of the new legislation to create a copyright exception for
parody, based on empirical evidence. Being the first rigorous academic
study in this area in the UK, the findings of the research were
instrumental to the policy process.
Impact took place through a consultative process with policymakers at the
IPO. Following completion of the reports the research team presented the
findings to the Government and other stakeholders at a series of meetings
in London. These included the Copyright Research Expert Advisory Group
(CREAG) at the IPO offices in June 2012 (R1) and an ESRC-sponsored
Festival of Social Science conference on Copyright policy held in
Bournemouth in November 2012 (R2). The findings were peer reviewed by an
expert panel and published on IPO.gov.uk in January 2013 (R3-5).
The BU research team recommended that UK policy adopt the widest possible
exception to parody permitted under EU provisions. Such a copyright
exception would allow both commercial and non-commercial parody, and would
adopt a wide definition to include a range of different forms of parody
The BU research was heavily cited by the Government in its legislative
impact assessment in 2012. The IPO wrote: "The research carried out by
Bournemouth University found that there is no demonstrable harm to the
popularity (and by inference reputation) of original works arising from
spoof or parody videos. [...] An evaluation of potential substitution and
dilution effects found that in neither case was there compelling evidence
that the parody is damaging to the original in terms of the copyright
owner's ability to attract and monetise an audience for their original
copyright work on the online platform." (R6).
In December 2012, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that the
Government plans to reform the Copyright regime in the UK, introduced in
the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. On 31 July 2013 the Government
published a draft of their proposed changes to the law, including the
exemption from IP copyright on the grounds of parody (R7).
Societal impacts of the proposed copyright exception
The proposed exception for parody will have significant and widespread
effects for a range of beneficiaries including UK media businesses,
technology providers, fans and consumers. The new law will grant the
ability to anyone to create parodies of existing work, without requiring
permission from rights holders. Such an exception would enable parodies of
popular music, film, art and literature. While the research clearly shows
that there are minimal economic downsides for rights holders, the
potential benefits in terms of freedom of expression and economic growth,
The BU research cites advertising revenue value from this activity at
tens of millions of pounds, but the original Hargreaves report values it
as billions, taking into account growth of the creative industries, the
`up-skilling' of young people and other economic factors.
This type of activity gives young people the opportunity to train
themselves in digital literacy, creating an excellent skills base for the
UK and helping to place us at the competitive edge of the creative
industries. The videos in the study also gave voice to minority racial and
sexual orientation groups, enabling vocalisation of marginalised
viewpoints in the public sphere and encouraging freedom of speech.
The study showed retail sales of original records were higher when
heavily parodied. As this does not necessarily show it was a result of the
parody, less popular content was also studied. Findings showed heavily
parodied work out-performed those not parodied; suggesting parody acts as
a discovery mechanism for lesser known artists.
These impacts are widely acknowledged, often by the original rights
holders themselves who sometimes gain revenue from the parody. This is
evidenced by the fact that original rights holders have not contested the
proposed change in law and generally do not enforce their copyright by
demanding parody material is taken down.
Evidence-based policy making
This body of research has advanced the role of transparent,
evidence-based policy in the regulation of Intellectual Property. The
experience gained on the part of the IPO in commissioning, evaluating and
disseminating the findings has strengthened the credibility of academic
research as a tool for sound policy planning. The IPO has recognised the
importance of empirical research to inform IP policy and has requested
that key researchers (Erickson and Kretschmer) undertake embedded
placements with the IPO in 2013 to assist with implementation of IP
policy. In order to support that effort, the IPO has contributed £51,000
to an ESRC Knowledge Exchange activity by Kretschmer and Erickson on IP
and policy. The purpose is to amplify the relationship between academics
and policy officials initiated during the parody research study, and
extend the role of empirical research to answer further IP regulatory
While reach of the impact is currently limited to the UK, the European
Patent Office in Alicante has shown interest in the work and it is being
presented at various conferences. This further verifies the importance of
this research in evidencing the significant social and cultural
opportunities for the range of beneficiaries the proposed copyright
exception for parody would bring.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Erickson was invited to take part in the following public policy
events as part of the consultation process:
R1. Minutes from the 5th meeting of the copyright research expert
advisory Group (CREAG), 14 June 2012: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/eag-copy-20120614.pdf.
R2. November 2012: ESRC Festival of Social Science: What
Constitutes Evidence for Copyright Policy? Executive Business
Centre, Bournemouth UK.
The following reports were published on the IPO website in January
R3. Report 1 (P3) http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearch-parody-report1-150313.pdf
R4. Report 2 (P2) http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearch-parody-report2-150313.pdf
R5. Report 3 (P3) http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearch-parody-report3-150313.pdf
R6. The Government legislative impact assessment (2012): www.ipo.gov.uk/consult-ia-bis1057.pdf
R7. Intellectual Property Office announcement, 31 July 2013: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/techreview-parody.pdf
The following individuals can be contacted to corroborate the impact
R8. Chief Economist, Intellectual Property Office. Contact details
R9. Executive Director, Open Rights Group UK. Contact details
available and letter confirming view and referencing the BU study