Copyright, Parody, & Fair Use for Writers

If you’re not a lawyer (and I’m assuming that’s most of us), then copyright can get pretty confusing, especially when you get on topics like parody and fair use. I certainly can’t claim to be an expert (I ain’t no lawyer), but here are some resources that might help. At the very least, they should give you a basic understanding of what U.S. copyright is, how it applies to writers, and what different terms mean. For more specific questions, you should probably talk to a lawyer who specializes in copyright law.


  • Copyright” on Wikipedia: the basic definition and history of the copyright
  • Copyright Information for Writers” from Poets & Writers: This page defines different copyrights and rights for authors and provides several other resources.
  • Copyright And The Independent Writer” by Alex Cabal at Scribophile: This article breaks down various copyright rumors into fact and fiction and offers yet more resources on the subject.

Parody & Fair Use

  • Parody” and “Fair Use” on Wikipedia: What can I say? I’m a traditionalist, and I like to start with the basic definition and history.
  • The ‘Fair Use’ Rule: When Use of Copyrighted Material Is Acceptable” by NOLO: This article gives a nice overview of what is or isn’t fair use, but I really like the 5 general rules to follow to make sure you don’t commit copyright infringement.
  • Legal Issues of Writing a Parody” by Lisa Shea: She gives a very down-to-earth explanation of the legal issues for writing parody and how parodies are different from fan fiction (with clear examples).
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