Tank’s recent negotiation with British American Tobacco over its cigarette packet-style book cover raises the question, should designers have the legal right to parody the copyrighted work of others?

I feel that in this case British American Tobacco has overreacted. If we look at the creative industries at large, parody is an acceptable artistic method. National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon in film, or Barry Trotter in literature, recognise that parody is part of our creative heritage. It is a genre in its own right. Brand-owners need to prevent blatant copying, but parody, which draws comedic and stylistic inspiration from its sources, is an artist’s creative right.
Paul Hogarth, Creative director, Figtree

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The Government’s own 2006 review of copyright law advocated far greater flexibility, including the creation of exceptions for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche as well as private copying (‘format-shifting’) and transformative works (such as fanfiction). We campaign and lobby in support of all these exceptions because they will benefit our culture and economy. Also, in terms of parody, over-zealous protection of copyright can be a tool for crushing dissent, which is contrary to the spirit of free debate.
Michael Holloway, Operations manager, Open Rights Group


British American Tobacco’s reaction is tiresomely predictable. No one will infer that Lucky Strike has endorsed this book. It’s obvious that it isn’t real – there isn’t a health warning on it. People will see it for what it is – a humorous and timely comment on a significant moment in our social history. Sadly, my guess is that a company which produces a deadly product probably doesn’t do humour very well, so it might be oiling the pulping machines yet.
Neil Henderson, Managing partner, St Luke’s


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There may be a defence for designers who create parodies of copyright works. The ‘fair dealing’ defence for criticism or review may be available to successfully defend a claim for copyright infringement. The defence will not be available where the parody infringes the author’s moral rights, namely that the work is prejudicial to the reputation of the author or amounts to what is known as a ‘derogatory treatment of the work’ at law.
Leigh Ellis, Copyright and intellectual property solicitor, Gillhams Solicitors

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