Danish Copyright Act – You may (still) lawfully use copyrighted works for parody purposes

In Insights

10 June, 2024

An amendment to the Danish Copyright Act will enter into force on July 1, 2024. The amendment codifies a long-used principle in Danish law that the use of copyrighted works in parodies and caricatures does not constitute an infringement of the work.

This principle faltered when the Eastern High Court suddenly changed it in a judgment where a cartoonist used the famous sculpture The Little Mermaid in a caricature drawing. The case had to go to the Supreme Court in 2023, where the infringement claims against the artist were dismissed, referring to the long-used principle of parody.

This principle is now being incorporated into the Danish Copyright Act, and thereby, all uncertainty about it should be removed. However, the amendment to the law is characterised by the somewhat difficult act of balancing the rights to freedom of expression and the rights of copyright holders.

Therefore, we will most likely also see future cases about the use of copyrighted works in parodies and caricatures before the Danish courts.

Specifically, the amendment states, “It is permitted to use works when it is done for the purpose of parody, caricature or pastiche”. Despite its wording, however, the exception is not absolute.

According to legislative history, the courts must assess whether the parody or caricature unreasonably harms the legitimate interests of the copyright holder in each individual case.

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