Rhodri Marsden: A parody is not funny in the eyes of the law

Cyberclinic

On Friday, in a moment of questionable inspiration, I spent 15 minutes combining a segment from a certain bank's deeply unpopular television advert with a death metal song, added a voiceover, and posted the clip online in the hope that people might find it mildly amusing. It failed to pack the intended satirical punch, in no way became a viral sensation, and was quickly buried under innumerable gigabytes of other nonsense slung online that day. But perhaps I was fortunate; had it generated much interest, the bank and the death metal band might have formed an unholy legal alliance to force me to remove it. And I'd have reluctantly had to agree, while muttering about it only being a "bit of fun".

Such was the experience of film maker Morgan-Jane Delaney, who last week discovered that her much-celebrated homage to Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and the Welsh town of Newport entitled "Ymerodraeth State Of Mind" had been removed from YouTube after a takedown request from EMI Music Publishing. It was far from the first parody of the Jay-Z hit on the site, but easily the funniest ("Newport, access from the A4042, traffic will enrage you, on your way to Newport") and the most popular, with several million views. Television appearances and glory-basking ensued, but now one presumes the mooted single release is on hold. EMI's action has proved fairly impotent; however fast the video is deleted from YouTube, someone uploads it again (search for "Ymerodraeth" and you'll see what I mean) but there's no denying that it's spoiled Delaney's dinner party like a bailiff with a sledgehammer.



In an era where computers make reworking and sharing material as easy as falling off a rickety stool, it is easy to forget the legal issues that hover ominously over satire and parody. Delaney ran into trouble because in doing a brilliant job she raised two issues, the first being economic: who would receive the royalties generated by the YouTube video? (Although the sums involved would barely keep Jay-Z in shampoo, let alone champagne.) And secondly moral, because, despite a recommendation to the contrary in the 2006 Gowers Review Of Intellectual Property, you still have to ask the permission of the UK copyright owner before you lampoon or indeed pay homage in this way. You could probably perform a satirical version of a song at a venue or even on radio or television and get away with it, but accidentally gaining notoriety online seems to be asking for trouble.



Did Delaney know she needed permission? Possibly; I asked her, but she politely declined to comment. If she did know – while obviously unaware of how popular her film would become – she may have thought, "they'll say no, so I'll just do it anyway". (And who could blame her? Jay-Z's reputation was certainly never going to suffer as a result.) Did EMI Music Publishing have any choice in demanding removal? Not really; Alexander Ross at media lawyers Wiggin informs me that every publishing contract contains a clause that prevents parodies being licensed. And imagine EMI saying to Jay-Z "Yeah, well, we saw that video, but it was really good, so we thought we'd sit around doing nothing about it." Little wonder that campaigning organisation the Open Rights Group are, once again, calling for urgent reform of copyright law, adding that parody and satire are "vital parts of our culture". Something's certainly amiss when a harmless video such as Delaney's, loved by millions, was obliterated, while my own pathetic mashup is still online as I type.

*************

Those struggling manfully or womanfully with internet dating's brutal cycle of anticipation and rejection could do worse than study some data just unleashed by OK Cupid, which offers fascinating hints on how to adjust your dating profile to make people think you're more attractive than you are. Predictably it centres around photos – because we're too disgustingly shallow to care more about prose than pictures – and the news is that Panasonic cameras take the snaps that garner most interest, with Canon second and cheap camera phones trailing badly. Flash photography adds seven years to your age – ouch – while the best time to be photographed is either 2am or 4pm, with the worst (unsurprisingly) being 9am. The most eye-opening statistic is that iPhone owners are more successful with the opposite sex, prompting one blog commenter to whine: "This has not been my experience – can I get out of my contract?"

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Project Manager

    £55000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: iOS Developer - Objective-C

    £38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Design and build advanced appli...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent