On a more serious note

Image by Ksayer1.  Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ksayer/5451761983/, and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 2.0.

Last week I shared a song parody.  This week let’s use my parody to demonstrate fair use analysis.  The University of Minnesota Libraries have a handy worksheet to help us do so.*

Fair use involves a balance of four factors:

1. Purpose of my work

I’m using my parody for educational purposes, different purposes from that of the original song.  This difference favors fair use.

2. Nature of the original

“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” is a creative work.  Using a creative work (as opposed to a factual work) weighs against fair use.

3.  Amount of the original used

If you use the smallest portion necessary (and not the heart of the work), you are following fair use practices.   Parody allows more leeway, as the parodist needs more of the original–including, sometimes, the heart of the work–to evoke it (Stims, 2001, p. 9/4).  I have tried to use the least that I could for my instructional and parodic needs.

4. Market effect

My piece would not harm the market for the original work.  Thus I lean toward fair use on this score.

I’ll close with some important disclaimers.  Firstly–and most importantly–I am not a lawyer.  Secondly I have not even touched upon the special considerations for the educational setting (Stims, 2001, p. 7/2): I oversimplified the analysis for the sake of demonstration.   Thirdly my analysis is obviously biased.  For the record I am seeking retroactive permission from songwriter Jeff Barry.  This example does show, though, that a silly parody can spark some serious discussion.


Stim, R. (2001). Getting permission: How to license and clear copyrighted materials online and off  (1st ed.).  Berkeley, CA: Nolo.

*You can also check out the Fair Use Visualizer.