Thursday, January 24, 2008


Jokes are copyright now?

"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno got the last laugh Wednesday in his legal battle with the creator of numerous joke books filled with stolen gags and punch lines.

The publishers of such compendiums as "Jokes to Go," "Comedy Thesaurus" and "The Funny Pages" vowed to immediately stop printing and distributing the books in a settlement with Leno and fellow comedians who sued author Judy Brown.

Under the legal deal announced by Leno's lawyers, Brown and her publishers also agreed to pay monetary compensation, and she apologized to the entertainers whose jokes she copied. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

That's a very weird decision indeed. Most odd. You can copyright writing, of course, and you can copyright music, but a stand up joke? I'm not really sure how that decision cvould have been reached. Most especially as so much comedy is in the timing of the telling, the method of expression, rather than the jokes themselves. Sorry, I don't understand this.

Leno acknowledged much of the material attributed to him originated with his "Tonight Show" writing team.

"On behalf of the tremendous and talented group of writers we have at 'The Tonight Show' and many other hard-working comedians, I'm very glad we've been able to stop this practice once and for all," he said in a statement.

OK, that I understand: he's paid good money for those jokes and doesn'twant someone to use them without paying him. But I still don't understand the legal basis of the ruling.

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