More Jokes on Copyright on Copyright in Jokes

Further to an earlier posting here at the Signal (Copyright In Jokes), Nathan Fan, writing at IPilogue, has penned a thoughtful piece on topic: Whose line is it anyway? IP Norms in Stand-Up Comedy.  Fan’s piece also does a nice job of summarizing some of the norms identified in Dotan Oliar and Christopher Sprigman’s There’s No Free Laugh (Anymore): The Emergence of Intellectual Property Norms and the Transformation of Stand-Up Comedy” (citation: 94 Va. L. Rev. 1787 (2008)).  Fan’s final paragraph is particularly thought-provoking:

As communication technology continues to advance, there is a growing fear of having one’s perfectly crafted joke stolen.  First, the radio and television allowed a joke to be broadcast across a nation. Now with the use of YouTube and Twitter, a comic’s first performance could be posted to millions on the internet by the following morning. It seems that the stand-up community’s ability to self-police was at least partially due to its tribal, communal nature. All of the major acts know each other and cross each other’s paths. But with the ability of a joke to easily cross borders and cross oceans, such a self-policed system becomes much more difficult to employ. However, stand-up’s normative system has some hope of surviving as it could foreseeably utilize the Internet itself for its sanctioning purposes (e.g. YouTube is rife with videos alleging joke-thievery). Nonetheless, the stand-up comedy community has put a spotlight on the fact that some creative communities are being better served by informal normative regimes than by the traditional legal system. Perhaps other creative communities  can learn a thing or two from stand-up comedy.


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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.

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