Did Conan O’Brien steal jokes from Twitter?

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Conan O’Brien accused of lifting jokes off Twitter.

A San Diego-based comedy writer filed a lawsuit last week against the late-show host Conan O’Brien for allegedly using four jokes he posted on his personal blog and Twitter account.Robert Kaseberg, who claims he had previously contributed jokes as a freelance writer to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for 20 years, says he wrote the jokes on his blog and on Twitter before Conan used them on TV. “A Delta flight this week took off from Cleveland to New York with just two passengers.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.

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. And they fought over control of the armrest the entire flight.” “We at Conaco firmly believe there is no merit to this lawsuit,” the production company behind O’Brien’s show told The Hollywood Reporter, which first broke the story. The Brady joke is about the QB’s wish to give his MVP truck to the guy who won the game for the Patriots. (The punch line is that the truck should go to Pete Carroll.) THR has posted the complaint online. 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. Kevin Sartorio, a lawyer with the Toronto-based Gowlings law firm specializing in copyright law, said Kaseberg will have to prove three things in the suit: that he owns the copyright to the jokes, that the O’Brien team had access to his work, and that they reproduced it.

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. Sartorio, who said he has not reviewed the Kaseberg case specifically, told the Star that a first challenge may be proving that the short jokes are covered by copyright in the first place. “A court may decide that (the jokes are) not long enough to attract copyright protection, that they don’t amount to a literary work, for example,” he said. “Whether or not a judge would find that they are protected by copyright or not depends on how much skill and judgment went into the joke . . . Ironically enough, the dawning of Twitter hammering down on supposed joke thieves came at the same time as news broke that Conan O’Brien’s late night variety hour, Conan, was being sued for allegedly lifting jokes off a lesser known comedian’s Twitter account.

That becomes relevant then to, ‘Is the joke based on an older joke that somebody else did a long time ago in a different context, or is it something completely new?’” O’Brien’s longtime sidekick and show announcer, comedian Andy Richter, briefly addressed the lawsuit on Monday: “OH NO WE’VE BEEN FOUND OUT!!” he wrote on Twitter. Robert “Alex” Kasberg filed a $600,000 lawsuit against Conan on July 22 after noticing that many of the legendary comic’s monologue jokes bore eerie similarities to his own online material. Kaseberg said Sweeney “angrily and loudly denied those were my jokes,” and the exchange was, he wrote, “the most disappointing thing in my comedy writing career.” The lawsuit comes as Twitter has removed tweets containing allegedly plagiarized jokes, Wired reported on Monday.

Twitter can withhold content after a report of infringment from the copyright holder, the company’s policy states. “Please think twice before submitting a claim or counter-notice, especially if you are unsure whether you are the actual rights holder or authorized to act on a rights holder’s behalf,” Twitter states. Still, he said that this doesn’t excuse using material without proper sourcing. “You should never just assume that merely because you found something in a tweet or otherwise online that it means you have permission to do anything that you want with it. 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. He repeated the sentiment in a VICE column, saying, “…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.” There’s no question that it’s a slippery slope for all parties involved: originators of a joke want it to be known that it’s theirs and Twitter wants to ensure that every user feels safe enough to tweet what they want without the possibility of being plagiarized, but until now, neither have acted upon any formal proceedings to ensure this occurred.

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