Winnetka native sues Conan O’Brien, claims he stole his jokes

30 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. 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. 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. 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 . . .

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. 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.

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