So I've been reading through the new copyright directive proposal and saw the pastiche exemption.

So take this hypothetical:

I forgot how anime.js worked to animate something.
I find a piece of example code on Stack Overflow that shows how it works to initalize it and to animate something to the left and then fade away
I write my own implementation without copying the original code in my codebase, that does a different animation, move to the bottom and fade in, inspired by the code example on Stack Overflow.

Would that be a pastiche? Or would that still fill under CC-BY-SA 3.0 because I took a work for inspiration, not copied it though, but created my own example inspired by that code, and am required to follow all requirements of the CC-BY-SA license?

The only references to pastiche I've been able to find have dealt with an artist reusing work for comedic or entertainment purposes from Britisch guidelines.

Miriam webster defines it as: a literary, artistic, musical, or architectural work that imitates the style of previous work.

Code is a literary work in my opinion. You write words in a document in a grammatically defined language, so theoretically with my interpretation, basing code upon someone elses code could interpret that as a pastiche.

I'm mostly curious because of this part from the final text of the former article 13 text:


The cooperation between online content-sharing service providers and rightholders shall not result in the prevention of the availability of works or other subject matter uploaded by users, which do not infringe copyright and related rights, including where such works or other subject matter are covered by an exception or limitation.
Member States shall ensure that users in each Member State are able to rely on any of the following existing exceptions or limitations when uploading and making available content generated by users on online content-sharing services:
(a) quotation, criticism, review
(b) use for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche

Answers relevant to the European Union please, and i'm mostly interested if there are actual precedents for these "outlier" cases?

2 Answers 2


"Pastiche" is a literary, not a legal term, and as a professional coder, I would not use it to describe code that to some extent imitated other code.

The legal question here is: is your code a derivative work of the code it is based on, and if it is, did you have permission to make that work. Copyright, in an Berne Convention country, which includes the EU, does not protect ideas and concepts, it protects expression. It protects the choices of words and symbols, and other forms of expression.

If all you did was study example code, presented for educational purposes, and then write code that performs a similar function, using the same general techniques, then I don't think you have infringed copyright. That, after all, is why people post code to Stack Overflow and similar sites, to allow them to learn how to use specific coding techniques, including in commercial projects. I have used techniques posted to SO to do coding as part of my paid job.

The usual test for copying under US law is "substantial similarity". This takes into account cases where there is essentially only one way to say or code something. I don't know the exact tests under the various laws of various EU countries, and they will not all be the same. But I suspect that on this point they are, well, substantially similar :).

I can't advise on your specific situation. But if it is as described, I don't think you have a problem.

  • Correct. It's a well-established practice that independently written code is not subject to copyright. This is necessarily the case, as there are only so many reasonable ways to implement a given function.
    – MSalters
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 16:19
  • @MSalters I think that "not subject to copyright" is stating things too strongly. The more complex the code is, the more likely 'substantially similar" code will be held infringing. The fewer reasonable ways there are to accomplish the function, the less likely such code would be held infringing. Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 19:24
  • Well, that's logical. Complex code can be written in more than one way, often many more ways. That makes a similarity suspect, as there's no technical constraint in those cases. But a factorial function?.
    – MSalters
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 0:01
  • @MSalters: Yes, a factorial function can be sensibly implemented in only a very few ways, perhaps only 2 (recursive or not). Perhaps one might compare the Scenes a faire doctrine in copyright law, where standard, genre-required scenes such as "boy-meets-girl" are not enough to establish similarity and thus infringement. A complete app is a different thing. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 0:05

There's no legal definition of pastiche, but the general idea is that the work is set up in such a way, that it deliberately imitates the style of a work. For example, the TV Show "The Orville" could be said to be a pastiche of Star Trek franchises, as the show has often used it's setting to stage morality tales and character dramas that explore hot button issues through politics. Wikipedia draws the difference between Parody and Pastiche as the former mocks the targeted original source material while the later is a celebration of the source material. Pastiche may be seen as a TV episode that imitates another series, or a film, that is done in the style of a straight genre film... Such as "Who Framed Rodger Rabbit" being a straight Film Noir set in a world where Cartoons are actors who work for Cartoon Studios. There isn't anything to differentiate Eddie Valiant from any Film Noir lead... a washed up PI who takes a seemingly standard case and discovers that it leads to a major conspiracy... he just lives in a universe where L.A. has an ethnic neighborhood called "Toon Town". A pastiche can be parody, like the two examples, or done straight, like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, which were both done with loving respect to serial scifi films like Flash Gordon and Japanese Jidaigeki (period piece) films in the former, and Pulp serials in the case of the later. While there is humor in the situation, it's not at the expense of the genre, but the specific situation of the story.

Since you're discussing how to initialize an animation code in Java, this is less of a parody and more of using an example from a text book using an example problem to solve your own similar problem.

Patische is probably best thought of as an original story that revels in genre tropes and conventions as a main part of the story.

  • Well that's mildly not helpful. So there is an excemption for pastiche but no definition of what it actually is, so it's up to anyones guess. So one could claim it falls under pastiche until an actual judge passes a judgement if it is or not until enough precendent is created to define what a pastiche is in the real world. Am I summarizing it correctly? Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 15:15
  • I mean from webster: a literary, artistic, musical, or architectural work that imitates the style of previous work. Code is a form of language, and written code a form of literature, or so one could interpret it. So code based upon code could be argued as pastiche then? or am I looking at improbable definitions? Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 15:17
  • @Tschallacka: Not at all... it's that it's not a legally recognized term. You're looking for "Fair Use" which covers a much wider host of copyright exceptions around transformative works and is not limited to Parody... though Parody often the biggest one to fall under the definition. As a dictionary Definition, it's probably not the best term to use for what you did.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 15:19
  • Yea, but fair use doesn't exist within Europe. And now with the new article being passed there is the pastiche exception, which comes closest to "fair use" i'm just trying to see if there is already established grounds how pastiche could be interpreted, since most countries in Europe didn't have a pastiche clause. Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 15:21
  • @Tschallacka: What your discussing is more akin to turning on a film camera and calling it a pastiche of Citizen Cane... yeah... someone did turn on a Film Camera to make Citizen Cane... but that's hardly imitating the artistic work of the film.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 15:21

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