Musing about parodies and copyright and mashups

One of my favourite parodies is  Ogden Nash’s Song Of the Open Road, a take on Joyce Kilmer’s Trees:

I think that I shall never see

A billboard lovely as a tree.

Indeed, unless the billboards fall

I shall not see a tree at all. 

Amazingly, he wrote this in 1933. Even more amazingly, it is still copyright protected, thirty six years after his death and over 70 years since he wrote it, so I guess I have to kowtow to the gods of fair use. Thankfully, you can see the whole of Kilmer’s poem in the Wikipedia link to his name.

As a child, I remember being amazed at finding out that Lewis Carroll’s Father William was a parody of Robert Southey’s earlier poem The Old Man’s Complaints. And how he gained them. These appear to be marginally out of copyright so you can read them at this link.

I’ve always considered a parody to be something new in copyright terms. I’m sure that people far more learned than I’ll ever be have drafted laws to make this possible. How else could I enjoy something like this, the recent take-off of Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie?   Do be careful when you watch it, I would recommend you sit comfortably and avoid eating or drinking anything while it’s playing. As usual I’ve made it available via my VodPod in the sidebar as well.

My thanks to Rachel Whetstone at Google, who reminded me of the existence of the video at a private conference we were both at.

One thought on “Musing about parodies and copyright and mashups”

  1. JP – I regret reading your post so early in the morning today. That Shakira parody video made me a bit queasy, at which point, I instantly sent it to my little sister for her to share in the pain ;-). I’m not sure if this is considered parody, and your kids probably already have seen, but Alanis Morissette’s singing of Fergie’s My Humps was recently a phenomenon on YouTube: .

Let me know what you think

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