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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Satire vs. Trademark infringement
I'm so tempted?

 2:32 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Based on this thread:


I'm sincerely thinking of doing up a satirical/parody (can someone explain the difference to me?) website of a big player.

I've read through the fair use [copyright.gov] laws, and parodies come to mind. Now, as I understand the 'fair use' concerning Trademarks and Copyright issues, a parody must be BOTH (paradoxically) exactly the same and at the same time obviously different (a parody).

So, does one take a chance with a very popular (and willing to get the lawyers in action) website and make it "exactly the same and at the same time obviously different"?

One would need to at least reproduce the 'look' of such a website. (Which would mean reviewing the code and reproducing it in such a way that it 'looks' exactly like the website in question.) The parody part would be the easy part...at least I hope so!

I'm thinking of doing something like this.

It will be viral.

It will get very 'natural' PR...in both senses. :>)

Would YOU do it or not? Feel free to explain your reasons. I don't mind learning...that's why I frequent WebmasterWorld!



 2:47 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Which would mean reviewing the code and reproducing it in such a way that it 'looks' exactly like the website in question.

Satirical content you might get away with, but I wonder about the code used to reproduce a site's 'look.' If you followed their layout techniques too closely you might find yourself being shut down on account of the html/php/css code, not the content!



 2:53 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have a very satire site, in respects to Google... the domain is like this: "keywordle.com" and has similar Google design, and have had no problems yet...

I don't think they would care though, since it is almost a constant reminder to people of the real Google.

Especially since I run adsense on this site, and am making money for them. I also have a Google image/logo on the site.

I think it's safe as long as your not actually competing, or copying like exactly, and stealing there respective property.

[edited by: PFOnline at 2:55 am (utc) on Dec. 4, 2004]


 2:54 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Nope...I'd just review the code for the font and styles actually used. I would never copy their code. I'd use CSS to make it load faster so I wouldn't fear THAT aspect of it.

Actually, if I did it good enough, I might be able to sell them the new faster code?



 3:23 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think it's safe as long as your not actually competing, or copying like exactly, and stealing there respective property

Whoa...lots of stuff in that quote.

Let me be clear:

The website must look 'exactly like the site in question' AND AT THE SAME TIME 'be obvious it's a parody'.

So, since the content will be the parody, the code will differ in this respect. As for "copying", that is the soul of the parody and thus the exemption under the 'fair use'.

For those of you in the USA and Canada that are familair with Saturday Night Live, they do some absolutely hilarious parodies of Nightline and other TV shows. They LOOK exactly like the real show...but the dialogue is obviously not. It perfectly fits the 'fair use' exemption.


 3:45 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think you get your best grasp of what you can or should not do by reading the various court opinions from the Barbie doll line of trademark infringement cases. Mattel has a reputation for a 'scorched earth' approach to defending its trademark and Barbie's 'image'. Whatever the court's allowed to get past Mattel's gatekeepers should be a good indication how far you can safely venture.

Of course, your mileage will vary by jurisdiction and the continued evolution of the law. Hint: These waters run deep. There's lots of reading required and even then you may not have a definitive answer.


 4:15 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Interesting you bring that particular company (Mattel) and their product (Barbie).

I can't believe I actualy sent them (Mattel) an email pointing out to them a page of a humorous webpage I made about Barbies...with no reply whatsoever from Mattel.

This was almost 3 years ago. It made it into the directory I wanted to get it into, though. :)

(I even went as far on the page to ask for the IRS to go after them...talk about pushing my luck!)


 4:32 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)



 4:47 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Interesting search.

So...if the parody webpage gets PR (Google's PR) and that PR has 'commercial value', then doesn't that open a huge 'can of worms' with the IRS over appreciating property?

oops-added>attempt to profit commercially from his parodies did not weigh against him, and that it was in the publicís interest to protect the underlying social criticism of his work.

Another interesting find is that the ACLU may help?


 5:25 am on Dec 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Would I do it? Depends on my motivation along with my willingness and possibly even desire to get sued.

You can get rich getting sued by some companies, and continuing to keep your parody online after it reaches the headlines.

If I wasn't looking to get sued, but I really felt that it was a company that deserved to have some fun poked at them, I might take the cowardly approach and have it hosted anonymously in a country with a somewhat different view of copyright.

Another option would be to put up the site, wait for them to send a C&D, make a big stink about it, then take the site down. Since it is a parody, it is incredibly unlikely that they would persue it beyond that.


 5:43 am on Dec 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just for the record SNL gets sued all of the time, so it is not accurate to say, safe. And fair use can only be established by a court of law. But parody is social commentary, and is protected by the fair use statute but IF you are sued, then there will be a cost, regardless if you win or lose.

My attorney says whenever, wherever possible get permission first. With scathing parody that will be highly unlikely. Good luck.

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