NEWS: Govt protects industry right to parody TV programmes

The ad industry escaped a threat to its creative freedom this week with the news that the Government is to allow famous TV programmes to be parodied.

The ad industry escaped a threat to its creative freedom this week with

the news that the Government is to allow famous TV programmes to be


Over the past two years, the Government has been considering whether or

not it should bring the format of TV and radio programmes under the

protection of copyright law. But last week the Department of Trade and

Industry declared it would not extend copyright laws to programme


The threat of legislation was first raised by a complaint lodged in the

late-80s by the TV presenter, Hughie Green. Green objected to TV New

Zealand’s version of Opportunity Knocks, a programme to which Green

claimed ownership. However, in 1989 the Privy Council rejected a breach

of copyright action by Green against the TV company. The case increased

pressure on the government to change the law from the entertainment

industry and led to attempts by MPs to introduce a private members’


Discussions were centred on editorial rather than advertising but the

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising argued vociferously that

legislation would have had a serious knock-on effect for advertising

parodies. It lobbied ministers to reject the idea.

Philip Circus, the IPA’s legal affairs director, told Campaign at the

time: ‘The IPA is telling the Government to think again. For example,

all the commercials that parody Mastermind don’t infringe copyright but

under the proposed legislation, a Mastermind pastiche would be ruled out

as a creative idea’ (Campaign, 8 July 1994).

Following the Government’s decision this week, Circus added: ‘Creative

freedom in advertising agencies would have been severely curtailed if

this proposal had won favour.

‘The mere fact that the format of programmes would have been subject to

protection would have raised doubts when agencies considered doing a

pastiche. Doubt kills off radio and TV commercials.’

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