Do memes are protected by Copyright Law?

All you need to know – Do memes are protected by Copyright Law?


Despite how often and quickly social media trends are changing, watching memes on social media has remained popular over the years. Even people who don’t use social media or the Internet are guaranteed to have come across funny memes at some time in the day, whether through marketing or print media. That’s because memes have a lot of power to shape perceptions and build a positive environment. Let us know more about how memes are protected by Copyright Registration laws.

What are memes?

Memes are funny photographic or audio-visual depictions created for entertainment and enjoyment. They are frequently based on irony, satire, parody, or just simple humour and regularly use images or video clips from various online media.

Criteria for a photo to be a meme

There is a justified criteria for a photo to be a meme, which is listed below-:


1. Test for market substitution: The core objective of a meme is to take a sarcastic or funny view of anything involving a person, not to compete with the copyright holder. Therefore, the first criterion is often described as the test for market substitution which is easy to qualify.


2. Improper usage: The second criterion focuses on the idea of “improper usage,” which is a broad idea that cannot be fully defined but rather understood. Memes are usually regarded as fair because they are supposed to be funny unless the right holder considers them a clear insult.

Can memes be protected under Copyright Law?

These days’ memes are continuously and quickly spreading on social media sites.   However, the question here is whether or not it is appropriate to plagiarize someone else’s work (a meme).  The Copyright Act, 1957 protects the legal rights of those who invest a lot of time, effort, and talent into creating a meme.

One more question that needs to be addressed is which category of intellectual property a “meme” would fall under. According to the reading of Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act, 1957 memes are most likely to be protected as “artistic creations.” According to Section 13(1) (a) of the Act, original artworks are protected by copyright. As was previously mentioned, creating a meme usually requires little work. Anyone can create a meme by adding some words to an online image.

Fair use doctrine

The fair use doctrine is a legal principle that allows for the limited use of copyrighted material without the owner’s permission. It is based on the idea that certain uses of copyrighted material do not infringe on the owner’s rights. Fair use is typically used as a defence against copyright infringement claims. The doctrine is intended to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by allowing for the creation of new works that comment on or criticize existing works.

Several factors are considered in determining whether the use of copyrighted material is fair use. The four factors are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount and substance of the portion used.
  4. The effect on the potential market for the copyrighted work.


Memes are not exempt from Copyright Law. Memes often use copyrighted material without permission, which can lead to legal consequences. However, not all uses of copyrighted material in memes constitute copyright infringement. The fair use doctrine provides a defence against copyright infringement claims and allows for the limited use of copyrighted material without permission.

Pallavi Dadhich: Pallavi is an ambitious English Literature student with a profound knowledge of content writing. Her SEO skills complement her content writing profile. She has a strong interest in expanding her set of skills by reading and learning. She is eager to experiment with creative writing styles while maintaining strong and informational content.
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