Jokes

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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amandak
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Jokes

Post by amandak » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:36 pm

Just wondering what the copyright situation is with regard to reproducing jokes in a print publication.

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Amanda

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:58 pm

Hi Amanda,
There is no simple answwer I fear. The courts have recognised jokes as literary works in the past, since they exhibit the necessary creative originality to pass the test. But that was largely where the comedian or writer could conclusively prove that they were the author of the joke. The difficulty arises when a joke is so well known and widely retold (think of Essex girl jokes) that no-one can definitively show they 'invented' the joke. This is often because telling jokes is an oral activity, and for copyright to exist, an idea has to put into a permananent form such as writing.
Ironically the converse would apply to your book of jokes. If you go around telling jokes which you know are soomeone else's creation you are unlikely to get into trouble unless you do it on national television since the author is unlikely to find out. However if you put all the same jokes in a book with your name on, it is much easier for the original author to find out and track you down. That said, many comedians see it as part of the territory to have their jokes stolen by other comedians, so many probably would not bother to do anything about it.
You don't say where you intend to collect the jokes from, but if you use other publications or the internet for instance, be careful not copy verbatim as you may well infringe the copyright of whoever published the joke in the first place. Where you know or are fairly sure you know the source of a joke, it would be morally correct to credit that person, for instance with words like "attributed to Bob Hope". Also bear in mind that many comedians pay writers to produce their jokes, so the comedian may not be the copyright owner.

Here's link to an American case on the subject: Jay Leno case
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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