1. Cerpin
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    Cerpin New Member

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    Parodies - how close are you allowed to go?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Cerpin, Jul 11, 2013.

    Hi there,
    Apologies if this should be in a different forum. I am thinking of writing and self-publishing (some kind of e-publishing, possibly through Amazon, haven't decided yet) a parody novella of a well-known novel. What I am wondering is, does anyone know how close you are allowed to go to the novel, and still be allowed to publish it?
    For example, imagine if it were a A Song of Fire and Ice parody (it isn't). Could I have characters called Bon Snaw, Nid Lark, Tarsei Sancaster, and so on? In terms of plot and the overall feel of the novella, I shall have the characters roughly following the events of their almost-namesakes, but in a ridiculous fashion, and many of the events will be similar but not exactly the same - or they'll end up at the same place, but through entirely different means. So for example, *SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ ANY A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE" you could have Nid Lark falling off a bridge due to ill-fitting footwear in Kings Landing instead of being killed, and his son Hob Lark goes to war with the Sandcasters because his father promised him some fine Kings Landing stew and once Nid is dead Tarsei outlaws stew. Or something similarly inane. In terms of the writing, the characters will all exhibit completely different personalities to the real characters, yet will follow similar story arcs.

    So, would this be allowed as a comedic parody? Would it depend? Or would it be a flat-out 'no'?
    Many thanks for any comments, they are all appreciated.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There's no bright line that anyone can give you. If you publish a parody of something where the rights holders have the demeanor and money to come after you, you could end up defending a lawsuit, and even if you win it could cost you a lot of money.

    You can find examples of parodies where names have been changed to funny names, and where the same general events take place in silly fashion. Look at Bored of the Rings, for example. But there is no solid rule about this, and the people who own the rights could always sue you even if you are within your rights to make the parody.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Although parody falls under fair use, you should look up the laws. Also look up some of the court cases involving parody and fair use. If you can, consult a literary attorney.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    DEFINITELY consult a literary attorney on this matter, not members of a writing site, if you want to avoid being sued for all you own or will ever own in your lifetime!
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Looking at case law, as thirdwind suggested, can be helpful. You might start with Campbell v. Acuff-Rose. In that case, the parody was commercial in nature, and the plaintiffs even convinced the lower court of a significant possibility for harm, and the parody was still considered protected expression.

    Again, though, lawsuits are expensive, even when you win them. The general rule in the U.S. is that you can't recover attorneys fees from the other side (there are exceptions to this). Even if you receive good advice from an attorney and are in the right, it won't necessarily prevent you from being sued. Believe me, I've seen some claims by rights holders that are way out there, but that settled anyway (often with the rights holder getting what they wanted) because the other party couldn't afford to spend $300,000.00 or more going to trial.
     

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