Copying the style of a song to create a new song/pastiche

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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Andy O
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Copying the style of a song to create a new song/pastiche

Post by Andy O » Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:26 pm

In light of the 2014 amendment about parody and pastiche, please can anyone advise on the following. I write and publish musicals and songs for primary schools and am currently writing a series of songs for a nativity musical. The songs, which will all be new recordings, will closely mimic the styles of famous Christmas hits (Slade's Merry Xmas, Mariah Carey's All I Want For Xmas etc etc) but with significant changes to melody and completely different lyrics (referencing the nativity story). The keys will be different but chord progressions and the instrumentation of the tracks will make them recognisable to the famous versions. Does this fall under 'fair use' as outlined in the recent legislation on parody and pastiche, meaning I would not be infringing copyright if I proceeded with publication? Thanks in advance.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Thu Mar 16, 2017 9:01 am

Hi Andy,

This area of copyright law involving music is notoriously difficult to provide useful guidelines. In most cases the courts hear evidence from musicologists and academics about the technical aspects, so I won't presume to offer general advice. The new parody and pastiche exceptions may well provide considerably more latitude, but as there haven't been any cases involving them we don't know how the UK courts will interpret the fairly bland regulations.

One thing is clear though, based on a decision (known as Deckmyn) in the Court of Justice of the European Union, for parody to exist there must be some separate element of mocking or criticism inherent in the new work, and it was also thought that humour was required, although exactly what kind of humour was not defined (belly laugh or wry smile?). And the relationship between the original work and the mocking content of the parody is also not well-defined. For instance can the mocking be of anything, and the chosen song is merely the vehicle for creating the satire, or must the original song be, in part, the target of the mocking? The Deckmyn judgment was equivocal on this aspect.

If you think that your new songs clearly parody something or are pastiches (in the traditional sense), then the extra leeway afforded by the new regulations should be sufficient to mean that your new songs do not infringe, irrespective of the changes you have made to the music. I am completely unable to help over whether the changes you have made on their own, and without the benefit of the parody exception, would infringe the copyright in the original songs or not.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

Andy O
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Post by Andy O » Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:50 am

Many thanks - very helpful.

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