There's No Joking About Copyright Infringement!

By Carolyn Hersch posted 05-16-2017 12:16

  

Conan O'Brien is currently involved in copyright litigation in the Southern District of California, on the claims that he stole jokes.  The case is Kaseberg v. Conaco, LLC et al 3:15-cv-01637. Defendants include Conan O’Brien, various writers on his show, and Conaco, Conan’s production company.

Judge Janis L. Sammartino ruled that the jokes were held under very thin protection, but would not grant Conaco summary judgment on charges that they stole jokes from comedy writer Robert Alexander Kaseberg, who has his own blog and has been a comedy writer for more than 20 years.  Kaseberg has contributed to television and radio, including submitting over 1,000 jokes to "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He has also written articles and jokes in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. In Late 2014 and early 2015, Kaseberg began to notice similarities between his posts and several of the jokes used in the late-night television show Conan’s monologues. None of the jokes were submitted for copyright protection Some of the jokes up for debate include:

The UAB Joke: On December 2, 2014, Kaseberg posted on his blog that "The University of Alabama-Birmingham is shutting down its football program. To which the Oakland Raiders said; ‘Wait, so you can do that?’ 

The following day, O’Brien stated on Conan that there was "Big news in sports. University of Alabama-Birmingham has decided to discontinue its football team. Yeah. When they heard the news, New York Jets fans said, ‘Wait can you do that? It’s something you can do?’

The Delta Joke: On January 14, 2015, a writer on Conan’s show submitted a monologue joke for that evening’s Conan episode that stated "Yesterday, a Delta flight from Cleveland to New York took off with just 2 passengers. Yet somehow, they spent the whole flight fighting over the armrest."

Later that afternoon, at 4:14 p.m., Plaintiff posted on his blog that "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."

The Tom Brady Joke: On February 3, 2015, Kaseberg posted on Twitter at 8:49 a.m. and on his blog at 9:02 a.m. that "Tom Brady said he wants to give his MVP truck to the man who won the game for the Patriots. So enjoy that truck, Pete Carroll."

Later that day, at approximately 3:14 p.m., another one of Conan’s writers submitted a joke for the following night’s Conan monologue, which O’Brien later performed, stating "Tom Brady said he wants to give the truck that he was given as Super Bowl MVP . . . to the guy who won the Super Bowl for the Patriots. Which is very nice. I think that’s nice. I do. Yes. So Brady’s giving his truck to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll."

The Washington Monument Joke: On February 17, 2015, Kaseberg posted on Twitter at 7:21 a.m. and on his blog at 11:20 a.m. that "The Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than previously thought. You know the winter has been cold when a monument suffers from shrinkage."

Later that day, at approximately 1:23 p.m. another Conan writer submitted a joke for that night’s Conan monologue, which O’Brien later performed, stating "Yesterday surveyors[] announced that the Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than what’s been previously recorded. Yeah. Of course, the monument is blaming the shrinkage on the cold weather. Penis joke."

The Jenner Joke: On June 9, 2015, Kaseberg posted on his blog at 11:05 a.m. and on Twitter at 11:31 a.m. that "Three towns, two in Texas, one in Tennessee, have streets named after Bruce Jenner and now they have to consider changing them to Caitlyn. And one will have to change from a Cul-De-Sac to a Cul-De-Sackless."

Later that day, at approximately 1:34 p.m., another writer for Conan submitted a joke for that night’s Conan monologue, which O’Brien later performed, stating "Some cities that have streets named after Bruce Jenner are trying to change the streets’ names to Caitlyn Jenner. If you live on Bruce Jenner cul-de-sac it will now be cul-de-no-sack."
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