Chris Cohen has been on a roll analyzing whether various derivative works are satires or parodies. The difference can mean one is legal and the other isn't under a fair use analysis. The basic rule is that a parody, which critiques the work borrowed from, is okay. Satire, which critiques something other than the work borrowed from, is not fair use. I tend to take a much broader view regarding whether something is parody (Parody of a Parody), so read on for some of my responses ...
UPDATED 0915 PT
UPDATED 2 1130 PT
UPDATE 3 31 July 2004
I've added a JibJab Category" to make following the story easier.
Several posters merge images of war (including torture at Abu Ghraib prison) with Apple's distinctive silhouette ad campaign for the iPod ("iRaq" Ads). Cohen argues that these are satire, since "the clear target of these remixed ads is society/politics in general and not Apple or the iPod." He cites the Dr. Seuss case (poetic account of the OJ Simpson double murder trial in style of Dr. Seuss is satire, not parody) in his favor. I agree that satire is involved.However, something can be both satire and parody.
I believe the iRaq posters are such a case. The parody here regards the meaning of the iPod as the lastest, hippest fashion accessory/gadget. The iRaq posters are pointing out the essential frivolity of such consumerist items as the iPod when there is a war taking place half a world away. Apple's ads show presumably happy people dancing alone to the music an iPod provides without, seemingly, a care in the world. The iRaq ads confront this vision by demonstrating that while they may be dancing away, others are suffering and/or causing suffering. In the context of war in Iraq, buying an iPod is shallow and puerile. This is striking directly at the meaning of the original iPod ads.
My view? Parody with broad protection.
Jib Jab's This Land is My Land
JibJab has produced an enormously successful flash version of Woody Guthrie's This Land is My Land that takes broad swipes at President Bush and Senator Kerry. CNN reports that the song's publisher is not happy with it (A Jibjab showdown: Bush-Kerry parody draws the ire of the music publisher that owns the Guthrie song):
"This puts a completely different spin on the song," said Kathryn Ostien, director of copyright licensing for the publisher. "The damage to the song is huge."
TRO believes that the Jibjab creation threatens to corrupt Guthrie's classic -- an icon of Americana -- by tying it to a political joke; upon hearing the music people would think about the yucks, not Guthrie's unifying message. The publisher wants Jibjab to stop distribution of the flash movie.
Cohen again sees this as a satire (JibJab video: parody or satire?
The JibJab video would likely be considered satire, because the video does not directly target the original song. The clear target here is Bush and Kerry or politics/society in general.
I disagree. JibJab's work is a paradigmatic case of parody.
JibJab's wonderful parody undermines virtually every element of the original meaning of Guthrie's song. Where Guthrie's song is provocative understatement, JibJab's is merely provocative. Where Guthrie's song is one of unity, JibJab's version both mocks and ultimately supports that ideal. In a year in which the red/blue divide is frequently debated, Guthrie's call for unity would seem to be ripe for this sort of parody. Guthrie was a supporter of communism, but his America has become consumerist (which JibJab notes perfectly). Guthrie sang songs to raise political consciousness, JibJab mocks political consciousness.
For most, Guthrie's song has been co-opted as mindless patriotism ("God Bless America" vs. the original "God Blessed America"). JibJab's parody liberates the song for us to think about and consider again.
Larry Lessig agrees with Cohen (on the meaning of parody). I stand by my argument that this is a paradigmatic example of parody. In the Seuss case, what was the OJ murder trial saying about Geisel's work? Here the commentary on Guthrie's work couldn't be clearer. "This Land is My Land" wasn't chosen because it had a catchy tune, or clever rhyming lyrics in a distinctive style. It was chosen because of what the song said and what it means about our unity as a nation.
Andrew Raff (This Use is Fair Use) and Martin Schwimmer (Copyright: My Two Cents on Jib Jab) weigh in on the side of parody.
Fuse's Silhouette Ads
Here, Cohen and I agree that this is parody (Fuse's new silhouette ads: parody or satire?). However, I do think this actually a somewhat closer case than the others.