Mash-Ups and Copyright Law


What is a Mash-Up?

Mash-ups are definitely part of our digital lives. What exactly are mash-ups? I like to define them as a digital collage or a montage. A mash-up is a work created using existing works. Most of us are familiar with the mash-ups we view on YouTube or Vimeo or similar online video sites. They can be funny, serious, silly and informative. Under most copyright laws, if the materials in your mash-up are protected by copyright law, then you need to obtain permission from the copyright owner to include them in your mash-up.

Mash-Ups and U.K. Copyright Law

This week, a new law comes into effect in the U.K. that permits people to use copyright-protected content from films, TV shows and songs in their mash-ups if the purpose of the mash-up is parody. Each case will be decided upon on its own facts. Judges will have to determine whether the mash-up is a parody or if permission from the copyright holder should have been sought. On 1 October 2014, a new exception comes into force to the U.K. Copyright, Designs and patents Act 1998. The provision will allow the re-use of copyright-protected material “for the purposes of parody, caricature or pastiche” without having to ask permission of the original author. Even if the exception applies, authors retain and may enforce their moral rights in the underlying works in the mash-up.

Mash-Ups and Canadian Copyright Law

The Canadian Copyright Act has had an exception in its copyright law since 2012 for individuals to use existing works in order to create a new work and to share that new work. This exception is sometimes referred to as the YouTube or mash-up provision. It’s only available when the use of the new work is for noncommercial purposes, the source of the underlying work, where reasonable, is included, and the use of the work does not have a substantial adverse effect, financial or otherwise, on the current or future exploitation of the underlying work. In its information about this provision, the Canadian Government describes permitted examples as “making a home video of a friend or family member dancing to a popular song and posting it online, or creating a ‘mash-up’ of video clips.”

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