Online video rights: You can copy it, as long as you make 'em laugh

New exemptions to copyright law will allow satirists to use music, literature and images online

Comedians and YouTube pranksters will be able to use clips of films and television shows to poke fun without having to worry about breaking the law, the Government announced today.

In an update to the rules on rights to licensed moving images, music and literature, the Department for Business said that exemptions to copyright would be granted for those engaging in “parody, caricature and pastiche”.

The move is likely to see a further increase in the trend for home-made video “mash-ups” as well as making it easier for broadcasters to source clips for comedy shows. In another reform, consumers will also be given the legal right to transfer books and music they have bought on to other digital devices.

The Government made the changes in response to the report Digital Opportunity, a review of existing copyright laws by Ian Hargreaves, Professor of Digital Economy at Cardiff University.

In the review, published last May, Professor Hargreaves, a former editor of The Independent, warned that existing laws on intellectual property were “falling behind what is needed” to stimulate the economy, notably in medicine, where researchers were having difficulty mining data from reports, and in the creative industries.

Noting the craze for redubbed or edited “mash-ups”, he said: “Video parody is becoming part and parcel of the interactions of citizens, often via social-networking sites, and encourages literacy in multimedia expression in ways that are increasingly essential to the skills base of the economy.”

Under the existing “fair-use” rules, short clips of copyrighted images may be used without permission from the rights-holders for news content, but not for comedy. In practice, given the difficulty of enforcing those rights in the digital age, many film-makers stop trying to ban mash-ups, which happened in the case of the 2004 film Downfall, about Adolf Hitler’s last days, which has been mercilessly re-dubbed for parody.

The Government said it would permit people to copy purchased digital content to any medium or device they own, providing it was for their own use. This means people will, for the first time, be allowed legally to transfer their music collection or e-books to their tablet, smartphone or to cloud storage.

In other changes, teachers will be able to use copyrighted materials on interactive whiteboards and similar classrooms technologies and medical researchers will be given greater rights to mine data.

The Government estimates the changes could contribute at least £500m to the UK economy over 10 years. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said: “We feel we have struck the right balance between improving the way consumers benefit from copyright works they have legitimately paid for, boosting business opportunities and protecting the rights of creators.”

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus, said: “When consumers have paid for music or other digital material, they should be allowed to copy it for their own use. It is absurd that private copying such as transferring a CD to an MP3 format is a copyright infringement under current UK law.”

The Government plans to introduce the changes in the law next year.

Mash-ups: this year’s popular targets

Nick Clegg

Footage of the Deputy Prime Minister’s apology to voters for breaking his pre-election promise to oppose tuition fees was quickly set to music on YouTube, repeatedly replaying the words “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry”.

Downfall

Internet users have endlessly parodied Hitler’s bunker speech, changing the English subtitles to suggest that they are the words of Manchester United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson or the Times’s food critic Giles Coren.

Pulp Muppets

Some mischief-makers superimposed the faces of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and other creations from the Muppets on to John Travolta and other actors in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...