Conan’s lawsuit and the danger of being a comedian on Twitter

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Conan’ Is Being Sued For Allegedly Stealing Jokes From Twitter.

Since the dawn of public chat rooms, personal blogs, and social media accounts, stealing work from others and claiming it as your own has been relatively pain-free and easy. A San Diego comedy writer is suing Conan O’Brien in a lawsuit claiming the late-night comedian lifted jokes the author had posted on Twitter and used them as his own.

A freelance comedy writer who says he contributed to Jay Leno’s Tonight Show for 20 years now claims he also contributed to a number of times this year—involuntarily, after the writers stole his jokes from Twitter.UPDATE: A representative from Conaco, Conan O’Brien’s production company, released this statement on Monday regarding the lawsuit: “We at Conaco firmly believe there is no merit to this lawsuit.” EARLIER: On Monday, news of a lawsuit filed against Conan host Conan O’Brien for copyright infringement made its way through the news cycle, sparking Conan announcer Andy Richter to respond to the allegations against his longtime collaborator via Twitter. “There’s no possible way more than one person could have concurrently had these same species-elevating sights! With Twitter, being able to steal a clever 140 character joke from a professional comedian or from just about anyone else who uses the service, not only became easier, but much more anonymous. Robert Kaseberg filed the lawsuit in California federal court on July 22, alleging that the jokes he posted on the social media site appeared in the Brookline-born comedian’s late-night monologues.

Bots were being created and spit out into the Twittersphere like wildfire, spamming any notable comedic account and earning twice the amount of engagement (followers, retweets) for doing little to no work. Read the full complaint, via The Hollywood Reporter, here and read reactions from O’Brien’s sidekick Andy Richter and some of his famous friends below. Kaseberg, who claims to be a former The Tonight Show with Jay Leno contributor, says O’Brien lifted a joke he made about Delta Airlines, which he posted online on January 14, according to the lawsuit. “A Delta flight this week took off from Cleveland to New York with just two passengers,” Kasenberg wrote. “And they fought over control of the armrest the entire flight.” “On Monday, a Delta flight from Cleveland to New York took off with just two passengers,” O’Brien said. “Yet somehow, they spent the whole flight fighting over the armrest.” Kasenberg says that tweets he made about Tom Brady, Caitlyn Jenner, and the Washington Monument were also used as fodder for O’Brien’s nightly monologues. “The Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than previously thought,” Kasenberg tweeted on June 9. “You know the winter has been cold when a monument suffers from shrinkage.” Not long after the joke was posted, Kasenberg claims O’Brien said this on Conan: “Surveyors announced that the Washington Monument is 10 inches shorter than what’s been recorded. Until this past Saturday, when a Twitter user noticed five of her tweets deleted with a message from the service alleging they were removed at the orders of a copyright holder. It does appear that Conan delivered similar jokes on the show around the same time Kaseberg posted his, but the case isn’t as straightforward as that.

And they still managed to lose their luggage.” Kaseberg writes that he wanted to do a similar joke, so he wrote the armrest-wrestling punchline and put it on his blog. So enjoy that truck Pete Carroll.” The next day, O’Brien said: “Tom Brady said he wants to give the truck he was given as the Super Bowl MVP to the guy who won the Super Bowl for the Patriots. Writing for Vice in 2011, Delaney explained why: I had the good fortune some years ago to have a joke stolen from me and performed on TV by a comic I knew. Do the Conan writers read an unknown comedy writer’s personal Blogspot and lurk among the 1,300 people following him on Twitter, or did two people write the same joke about a topical news item?

Conan’s representatives refused to comment on the story, only acknowledging that the lawsuit had no merit, but that didn’t stop Conan’s sidekick, comedian Andy Richter, from chiming in on Twitter. I also realized that if I couldn’t immediately write several more jokes to replace it, then I wasn’t funny, and I had no business calling myself a comedian. This may not be the end of having to fight for popularity and recognition on a medium so poisoned, and yet indebted, to plagiarism, but comedians like Rob Delaney aren’t too worried. But it was a lot more fun to tell people about than to experience.” Kaseberg says in his complaint that he received no compensation, nor did he get screen or writing credits for the jokes.

And always used on the monologue one day or, in the case of the third time, six hours after it appeared on my blog and or Twitter.” Although the jokes were written about news items that would only be topical for a couple of days, Kaseberg was convinced the timing proves his material was stolen. There are Twitter accounts, usually bots, set up to steal jokes and pass them off as their own, but there are human ones who profit handsomely from the practice as well. Many have raised questions about Ostrovsky’s ethics and those of Elliot Tebele, the guy behind the popular F— Jerry Instagram account, who has been accused of the same practices. Twitter has begun sending Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices to accounts that routinely copy and paste content from other accounts and pass it off as original, the Verge reported this week.

Kaseberg’s lawsuit may just be the next step in determining what’s legal when it comes to joke stealing, and what’s simply frowned upon and taboo.

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