Copyright in Jokes – Lawyers Weekly Article

The good folks at the Lawyers Weekly have published a short piece of mine (in their July 1, 2011 issue) which reflects further on the topic of copyright in jokes – the full text of the article can be accessed here, and the opening paragraphs are below:

What is reputedly the world’s shortest joke clocks in at a mere two words: “Pretentious? Moi?”

Though jokes may seem an incongruous (even humorous) subject for intellectual property (IP) law, examining the extent to which protection is available for jokes provides an opportunity to reflect on a variety of issues relevant to copyright reform debates.

Theoretically, there is no reason that a joke cannot be protected by copyright, so long as it meets the generally applicable requirements: the expression must be original and fixed in some tangible medium. For jokes which are delivered only verbally, the lack of fixation will be a barrier to protection. The law generally shies away from according copyright protection to titles and short phrases for fear that a limited monopoly will be asserted over basic elements of expression — and for similar reasons, short jokes would be unlikely to obtain protection.

Previous Signal coverage on the topic of copyright in jokes is collected here.

Subscribe and stay updated
Receive our latest blog posts by email.
Bob Tarantino

About Bob Tarantino

Bob Tarantino is Counsel at Dentons Canada LLP and focuses his practice on the interface between the entertainment industries and intellectual property law, with an emphasis on film and television production, financing, licensing, distribution, and IP acquisition and protection. His clients range from artists and independent producers to Canadian distributors and foreign studios and financiers at every stage of the creative process, from development to delivery and exploitation.

Full bio