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Stop Us If You’ve Heard The One About Copyrighted Humor47:08
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Who owns jokes? Seriously. In the age of social media, the lines are murky.

Conan O'Brien speaks at the 43rd AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Tribute Gala at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Los Angeles. The late night host and comedian is being sued for alleged joke theft. (AP)
Conan O'Brien speaks at the 43rd AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Tribute Gala at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Los Angeles. The late night host and comedian is being sued for alleged joke theft. (AP)

The jokes are coming down on Twitter. Well, some jokes. The social media giant is responding to joke-tellers who think they’re being ripped-off online. You allege copyright infringement persuasively and Twitter, apparently, blocks the joke. It’s true we live in an easy “copy and paste” era, where mooching humor or anything else takes only a few key strokes. But who owns jokes anyway?  Conan O’Brien is being sued for lifting jokes off Twitter. His joke writers say that’s ridiculous. How far does it all go? This hour On Point: we’ll look at who own jokes in the age of social media.
-- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

David Sims, senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers culture. (@davidlsims)

Chris Sprigman, professor at the New York University School of Law. Author, with Kal Raustiala, of "The Knockoff Economy." (@cjsprigman)

Jesse David Fox, senior editor at Vulture. (@jessedavidfox)

Gary Gulman, stand-up comedian. (@garygulman)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Atlantic: Whose Joke Is It Anyway? -- "The idea of a joke as intellectual property hasn’t always been ironclad. Many stand-up comedians used to rely on writers for their gags, reworking the material they were given to fit their style, though that practice has since fallen out of favor. Joke thievery was an issue to be worked out behind the scenes, often with threats of physical violence."

Washington Post: Joke theft isn’t new. Joke theft via Twitter? That’s just the latest wrinkle. -- "Drake allegedly has a ghostwriter and now Conan O’Brien is being sued for stealing jokes. Does anyone write their own stuff anymore? Alex Kaseberg, a freelance comedy writer, is suing O’Brien for copyright infringement over several tweets and blog posts he claimed were lifted and then incorporated into the late-night host’s monologue.

Vulture: How the Internet and a New Generation of Superfans Helped Create the Second Comedy Boom — "There has never been a better time to be a comedian: The talent pool is broad, deep, and more diverse than ever before; a new generation of passionate fans is supporting experimental work; and there are countless ways (online, onscreen, in your earbuds, at live shows) for new voices to be heard and — not always a given when it comes to the internet — make a living."

This program aired on July 30, 2015.

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