Lawyers for Pippa Middleton have requested that a parody
Twitter account be deleted, according to reports in
The Independent newspaper and
TNT magazine. Middleton is famous for her starring role in
the recent Royal Wedding: she is the sister of Kate, Duchess of
Cornwall, who is expecting a baby this month that will be third
in line to the British throne.
her popularity, last Christmas Pippa published a book of
party-planning tips called
Celebrate (right). Critics complained that
some of the tips were simple and trite, and it was not long
before the @Pippatips Twitter
account (below) was set up, parodying her advice (sample tweet:
"dressing up in nice clothes is a stylish way to look great at
a party"). Its authors have now written a topical book,
When One is Expecting: A Posh Person’s Guide
to Pregnancy and Parenting, published by Icon
The parties involved have not given details, so
it’s not clear on what basis the action is being
brought. But it is ironic that it comes just as the UK
consulting on widening copyright exceptions, including by
introducing a specific
exception for "caricature, parody or pastiche".
Announcing this proposed exception last year, the government
"The consultation document suggested that the UK may be at a
disadvantage on the world stage and that British broadcasters,
production companies, and creators who produce commercially
valuable parody works may be inhibited from making the most of
This always seemed a slightly surprising assertion to me.
There is a healthy tradition of caricature and parody in the
UK, from eighteenth-century writers such as Jonathan Swift and
Alexander Pope to the wonderful Craig Brown in Private Eye today.
It’s not immediately obvious that copyright law
has impeded people from creating parodies, or even making money
parody accounts are particularly popular on Twitter. For
example, the amusing @Queen_UK has more than
twice as many followers as the official @BritishMonarchy.
And earlier today a tweet by the Prime Minister
inadvertently linked to a spoof account for one of his own
cabinet ministers (David
Cameron tweet links to parody Duncan Smith account).
If the legislation is passed as proposed, it will surely
become almost impossible to take copyright action against
obvious parodies (just putting the word "parody" in your
Twitter description should get you out of jail) unless there is
wholesale copying (the exception allows "any fair dealing"). Of
course, under certain circumstances, there might be the
opportunity to take action for trade mark infringement and/or
passing off, and the UK also has a robust defamation regime
– but you would think these options will be limited
for obvious parodies.
The @Pippatips Twitter feed has been inactive since June 14,
having previously been updated at least daily.
It’s not clear why it's gone quiet, but maybe
Middleton’s lawyers (Harbottle & Lewis)
deliberately took whatever action they did before the law