In our continued “Is That Legal” video series, I have entertainment law attorney and friend-of-ReelSEO, Gordon Firemark, answer a fan’s question about making parody videos of professional wrestling for their own marketing activities. 

Entertainment Lawyer Gordon P. Firemark on Parody Videos in Online Marketing

Disclaimer: The following is meant for general information purposes only. It should not be construed as, or substituted for, professional legal advice. For that, I recommend you contact a qualified attorney in your state!

Here’s an excerpt of Gordon Firemark’s statement on doing parody or satire in online video marketing, or other business or professional use:

Parody is among the kinds of things that we as a society have decided are worthy of the very highest level of protection. Parody falls under the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and freedom of the press. When you create a parody, what you’re doing is criticizing, commenting, poking fun at the thing you’re talking about.  You are using irony and humor and sarcasm, essentially, to foster a discussion of issues that arise from the thing in question.

So that kind of discussion is very important for a free society to have and therefore we have given it a great deal of First Amendment protection.  Parody is also a part of the fair use defense to copyright infringement.  What that means is that if you are poking fun at a film or a photograph or a song, it is OK to use that work of art, that copyright protected work, as a part of the parody.  You need to use it in order to make fun of it.  So parody is a defense to the claim of copyright infringement.

The other thing I want to emphasis is that as long as the parody is creating the commentary, it is OK that it bends the truth a little bit, but it has to be very clear that what you are doing is a parody. If there’s a sense that you are making a true statement about a person and that statement is false, it could be construed as defamation. So you have got to be very careful that what you say is either true or an expression of opinion, and that is what parody really does.

I should caution that the First Amendment only operates here in the United States. So if you are in another country, you need to investigate your local jurisdictions, freedom of speech, freedom of press regulations and protections.

My Own Non-Lawyer-Qualified, Non-Legally Qualified, Marketing-Related Tips for Dealing with Legal Issues on Parody Videos Online

Keep in mind that these are my own tips as a marketer, and should not substitute for the professional advice of a qualified local attorney! But that being said, I’ve seen these done often for that extra legal “insurance:”

  • Include a disclaimer. I recommend doing this at the beginning of the video or somewhere in the “description” field on the disclaimer. For some extra insurance, considering including link to a disclaimer page on your website.
  • Contact the original enterprise or individual. It doesn’t hurt to let the enterprise or professional individuals of whom you’re doing the parody of know of your intentions. That’s a goodwill effort, and they may even find it humorous and share it amongst their own colleagues.