What would happen if we were to alter dialogue or music without permission?
Your show risks being cancelled and you will have no redress for any losses you incur.
Some rightsholders (particularly regarding pantomimes) may give you permission to make minor alterations to their work. But unless this is stated on their website or specified in any of their literature, you should always obtain their written consent beforehand.
Using copyrighted content in parody
Parodies are comedic imitations of someone else’s work, i.e; the humorous use of an existing song, play, or writing which changes the words to give farcical and ironic meaning. Parody has long been a viable part of entertainment. It allows for comment, criticism, and humour of an existing work. Special laws have been upheld to allow artists to freely perform parody to its fullest to avoid copyright issues. However, royalties might still be payable to the original author.
When producing parodies, it is acceptable to use bits of the original show or song to enhance the comedic nature of your new creation. This includes music and other identifying elements. A parody, by definition, must hold the original up to ridicule. You must reflect on the original in your parody. When you do this, you can go so far as to use clips from the original song in your own, including original background music, voices or anything. Parody does not violate copyright law, as long as it doesn’t seek to damage or harm the reputation of the original or try to pose as the original.
Fair use in parody
Unlike other forms of fair use, a fairly extensive use of the original copyrighted work is permitted in a parody in order to conjure up the original.
The European Copyright Directive effective of 1st October 2014 allows the parodying of any copyrighted material, so long as it is fair and does not compete with the original version. As a result of this, on 1st October 2014, the UK Government introduced new exceptions to the copyright law which now allows individuals to use copyright material for the purpose of ‘parody, caricature and pastiche’ without having to obtain permission from the original author.
Please Note: This guide has been put together using information gathered from various sources, including relevant bodies. It is not intended to be a complete guide to the law of copyright. If in any doubt, societies should first seek appropriate advice from the rightsholders.