Parody Squared

Who here knows the laws regarding fair use? And their use in parodies? ‘Cause I don’t. Not well, anyway.

My younger sister is graduating from high school this Friday, the last of the brood. She’s also having a hard time getting her driver’s license, a phenomena which my mother attributes to her not reading the Driver’s Manual put out my our state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Mother complained that if it just had a few vampires, she might read the thing. ‘Hmmm…’ I thought, grinning. Thus was conceived the idea for a novella titled Driving At Twilight, a teenager meets vampire angsty pants story wherein our heroine tries to get her driver’s license amidst the turmoil of falling in love with a vampire whilst another is trying to kill her.

The trouble is that I’m lazy. I decided right off the bat that, aside from some driving school rather than high school tweaking, it’s pretty much going to parrot Twilight (if you couldn’t tell from the title). And I fully admit that many of the scintillatingly clever writing is pulled directly from the DMV Driver’s Manual. So is this two cheap parodies mashed together in an unholy alliance? Or is it quite simply PLAGIARISM? Ooo, that dirty word has haunted me since middle school. I’ve never committed it, but am I about to? Because it’s funny?

This is why I find myself Googling ‘fair use’ this morning. I’d rather not get sued for a joke with my little sister. And I really don’t think Stephanie Meyers would come breathing down my neck at all, except that I thought I might put it up here in a week or two, or maybe even send a copy over to the DMV so we can all giggle about it together. Does circulation complicate the matter? (Most probably yes.) I’m not planning on making any money on this. And I like to kid myself that this is educational. But, still… I’d rather not get sued.

Merriam-Webster tells us that parody is “a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule “. It further defines fair use as “a legal doctrine that portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner”. I don’t think I’ll be cutting in on Summit Entertainment or Ms. Meyers’ profits, nor do I think that anyone will be profiting from this at all. And I’m definitely portraying the characters’ situation as a little ridiculous. And I give the characters goofy not-quite-the-same names- so it’s gotta be a parody, right? If Fifty Shades of Grey can get away with it, this is even less threatening.

What do you think? What makes a parody sue-safe? Or a fan-fic, for that matter? Would you ever write a parody?