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Be Not Nobody
09-11-2009, 08:44 AM
Is anyone able to point me in the general relation to the use of song parodies in screenplays/films.

From what I was able to make out, the Acuff-Rose case established that parody falls within the parameters of fair use. Not being a legal eagle myself, this knowledge in and of itself sheds little light on what is and is not fair game.

For example, if I were to put in my screenplay:

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INT. CHURCH - DAY

Scores of worshipers hang on the every word of Reverend Killjoy as he delivers a resounding eulogy on the death of etiquette and good manners. Be Not Nobody lets rip a loud and enduring fart. Sings a parody of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On";

"And my fart will go on and on"

He continues to fart. The farts sound like the melody of the song.

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Would this be something that I could not include in my script if I were to enter it into contests or send them out to agents or managers?

Pending on the answer to the above, is there some point at which it goes from acceptable to not? I.e. if I parody 2 lines, it's okay, but 5 is not. Anything like that.

joeld42
09-12-2009, 01:51 AM
Parody is different from fair use.

Fair use is when you use a short bit of copyrighted material in an allowed context, i.e. quoting an article, a TV show in the background in a documentary, etc. You don't need clearance for this but often people either buy clearance or omit the material just to be on the safe side.

Parody is when you use a copyrighted likeness to poke fun at something... i.e. Darth Helmet in "SpaceBalls".

In your example, the song "my fart will go on" would be allowable as a parody, except you couldn't use the actual music, you'd have to get different music that sounds reminiscent of the original song.

This is my understanding, I'm not a lawyer or anything.

joel

lavella
09-17-2009, 10:06 AM
Hey there, long time reader of this forum, I think first time posting! =)

I've studied music publishing, the use of a copyrighted song as a parody or even changing the lyrics for an advertisement (using the same/same sounding bg music) still needs to be licensed via the publisher (sync rights).

Basically fair use is applicable if you are using the work as a criticism, news reporting, teaching, or research.

Sooooo, I think that for your use, being commercial (film/tv script), you would have to clear the sample. I'd check with a lawyer tho they may be able to give you a very clear answer with your particular use, we've seen many times where songs are parodied as a social commentary (criticism) like on SNL or other comedy shows.

There really aren't any 'minimums' that are considered freebies. Like using a song for 10 seconds, or 2 lines in a script, etc... technically the labels want every penny out there ;)

good luck!

Be Not Nobody
09-17-2009, 10:17 AM
Interesting to note. I'd be stoked if it got that far tbh. I think mainly I was wanting to ensure that I'm able to send it around in queries/contests etc. The general impression I've got is that it should be okay.

lavella
09-17-2009, 02:19 PM
Interesting to note. I'd be stoked if it got that far tbh. I think mainly I was wanting to ensure that I'm able to send it around in queries/contests etc. The general impression I've got is that it should be okay.

for sure =)
for sending it around (queries, etc...) I don't think you have anything to worry about. If it gets picked up there wont be an issue paying for the rights to the song =)