Comedian and host Conan O’Brien lost a bid to have a federal copyright lawsuit over alleged stolen jokes dismissed last week when a judge allowed the suit to proceed on some of the counts but not others.
Although U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino said two of the jokes in question did not meet the legal standard of copyright infringement, three others were allowed to go forward to trial.
The lawsuit was filed almost two years ago by Robert Alexander Kasenberg, who claimed some of O’Brien’s jokes about the New England Patriots, the Washington Monument, and Caitlyn Jenner were taken from his Twitter page and blog in late 2014 and 2015. Kasenberg said he wrote extensively for Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" and was published in various publications.
The jokes were similar, but it’s very difficult to prove they were stolen. Additionally, most lawsuits over stealing jokes don’t go forward because most comics don’t make a great deal of money, so it would be difficult to collect anything, Fox News noted.
In the past, it was difficult even to determine which joke was told first, but time stamps have made that consideration less onerous. The suit against O’Brien showed definitively that Kasenberg’s material had appeared on Twitter and his blog earlier than on O’Brien’s show.
The suit names not only O’Brien, but his production company, Turner Broadcasting System, Time Warner Inc., and the executive producer and head writer of the show. All parties have denied the accusations and said the material was original.
One lawyer on Twitter thought proving a joke was copied would be difficult.
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