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Amateur parody videos can make the originals more popular and profitable, BU research finds

21 March 2013

The study looked at parody videos on YouTube Government has used the research findings to propose a new copyright exception to allow parody

Amateur parody videos on YouTube can lead to increased views and popularity for the original, Bournemouth University (BU) research has found.

The study looked at the economic effects of parody and how parody videos impacted on the original artists.

Parody videos take elements from an original song and often remix or re-imagine them for humorous or satirical effect.

It has been suggested that they infringe on the original artists' copyright - exploiting too much of the original work and crowding it out of the market.

But the team from Bournemouth University found that artists could actually benefit from parody videos.

Lead researcher Dr Kris Erickson said: "The team found that the presence of parody was correlated with higher than average audiences for an original work. The effect was most noticeable for songs with lower pre-existing sales.

"In other words, up-and-coming artists may benefit most from having their work parodied on YouTube."

The research was led by Dr. Erickson, Senior Lecturer in Media Regulation from the Media School, with Professor Martin Kretschmer and Dr. Dinusha Mendis from the Centre for Intellectual Property and Policy Management at BU.

Their team examined 343 hit pop songs using public data from the British Charts Company, before tracking the quantity of parodies on YouTube for each of the songs.

A total of 8,299 user-generated parody videos were discovered, with an average of 24 parodies available for each commercial music video on YouTube.

The sample was then further analysed to determine whether a large number of parodies for a track influenced either its retail sales or the number of views for the official version on YouTube.

Key findings included:

  • There is no evidence for economic harm to rightsholders through either substitution or reputational damage; the presence of parody content is correlated with larger audiences for original music videos.
  • The audience size for parody is smaller than the audience for originals; for most of the sample, the audience of all parody videos added together accounted for less than 1 per cent of the total YouTube audience for the original music video.
  • There exists a small but growing market for this type of online parody; parody videos in the study generated up to £2 million in revenue, a portion of which was shared with creators and rightsholders.

The research was commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office, the official government body responsible for granting Intellectual Property rights in the UK, and the findings have been used to propose a new copyright exception to allow parody.

Copyright law does not currently allow parody - even the amateur online variety - without the permission of the copyright owner.

But in December 2012, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the Government's plan to reform the Copyright regime in the UK, including a statutory exception for parody.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill began report stage in the House of Lords in February 2013. Dr Erickson said: "Enabling small producers to create and monetise parody on platforms such as YouTube may unlock millions of pounds of revenue for small producers and skilled amateurs.

"Furthermore, the research makes clear that building the digital creative capacity of young people in the UK via copyright exceptions will have longer-term effects on the competitiveness of the UK creative sector."

To find out more about the research and the proposed parody exception visit

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