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Industrial Strength Parody – Fair Use and Musicals

MSK Client Alert 
May 19, 2022

On May 12, 2022, Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York held that Vape—a parodic retelling of famous musical Grease through a feminist lens—constitutes fair use.  See Sketchworks Industrial Strength Comedy, Inc. v. James H. Jacobs, et al., No. 19-CV-7470-LTS-VF, 2022 WL 1501024 (S.D.N.Y May 12, 2022).  The case was initiated by Sketchworks, a Georgia-based sketch comedy company, after the copyright owners of Grease served them with a cease-and-desist letter days prior to a 2019 performance of its musical Vape in New York City. Sketchworks sought declaratory relief and moved for a judgment on the pleadings, arguing that their production is a parody of Grease and constitutes fair use under Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. The Defendants argued that Vape’s use of Grease’s character names, settings, and storyline, as well as portions of nine Grease songs clearly violated their copyright..

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