The Queen's Speech

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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MrPunch
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The Queen's Speech

Post by MrPunch »

Hi again.

I am writing a novel in which a British ruling monarch gives a national speech live to the nation. Now I was looking at taking an existing Queen's speech - the recent coronavirus speech , for example, but tweaking it here and there to adjust its meaning in the context of my story. It would still be recognisably the same speech, in essence.

The novel is satirical, but not sure that gives me any wiggle room.

So, the question is, are royal speeches copyrighted and can I plagiarise at will?
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AndyJ
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Re: The Queen's Speech

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Mr Punch,

Nice to hear from you again and to know you are keeping busy. I think that the script of a Queen's Speech is the classic example of Crown Copyright:
163 Crown copyright.

(1) Where a work is made by Her Majesty or by an officer or servant of the Crown in the course of his duties—

(a) the work qualifies for copyright protection notwithstanding section 153(1) (ordinary requirement as to qualification for copyright protection), and

(b) Her Majesty is the first owner of any copyright in the work.
And as such, doing what you propose might be seen as lese majesty - fortunately no longer a criminal offence! I am joking about that bit, but crown copyright undoubtedly applies.

The fair dealing exception for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche (section 30A) applies equally to Crown copyright as it does to normal copyright, but if you feel that the actual satirical effect of re-wording the speech may fall below the parody threshold*, it might be worth writing to the Palace for permission to use it. Until recently it was fairly rare for members of the royal family to sue over copyright, although the ongoing case between the Duchess of Sussex and Associated Newspapers, and Prince Charles's own case against Associated Newspapers in 2006** have somewhat reversed that state of affairs. And these cases are not without precedent. Even as long ago as 1849, Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert sued over what we would today describe as infringement of his publication right.

I hope this helps you.

* In fact we have very little idea where the threshold lies as there have been no cases involving a parody/satire defence in the UK since the introduction of the exception in 2014. The best we can rely upon is a case known as Deckmyn which was heard by the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2014. The Court indicated that in order for a work to constitute a parody it is required to "evoke an existing work, while being noticeably different from it, and secondly, to constitute an expression of humour or mockery". The parody itself does not need to meet originality requirements for a work, although it must be noticeably different from the work it is based on. Lastly, the CJEU specified that national courts should strike a fair balance between the rights holders of the original work, and the author of the parody.
**An interesting side note in these two cases is that trial judge in the Duchess of Sussex's case, Mr Justice Warby, was counsel for Associated Newspapers in the Prince of Wales's case.
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
MrPunch
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Re: The Queen's Speech

Post by MrPunch »

Thanks as always!

Apologies for the tardy reply - was having all manner of login issues!

Having no desire to be sent to the Tower, I shall reframe my Queens speech in the style of hers, not a copy.
I like the idea of asking Royal permission but as the story is not too kind to monarchies in general it would feel a little rude!
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