Re: Copyright and Jokes

From: Steve Jamar <sjamar[_at_]law.howard.edu>
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 1996 08:32:37 -0400

> Dear listmembers,
>
> Is it possible to claim a copyright on jokes?

Maybe. But only on the expression of it, not on the idea of it.

> If I compile a list of jokes that have their origin and are circulated
> in a particular area and are most likely isolated to that area, can I
> copyright them if I am the first to publish them?

You would have a copyright on the compilation. But you would not have a copyright on the individual jokes because they are not original with you.

> Could an individual who originally created the joke ever successfully
> present a claim?

I doubt it - emphasis on "successfully." You would run into merger problems, fair use, and such.

> What about jokes that are well known and widely circulated in print
> and verbally. Could the person who first put a joke in print ever
> claim copyright?

No. It is not original with that person.

"The government which thinks in terms of humanity will continue." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Campaign speech, 1936

Steven D. Jamar
Professor of Law & Dir. Legal Research & Writing Program Howard University School of Law
2900 Van Ness Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
voice: 202-806-8017 fax: 202-806-8428 email: sjamar[_at_]law.howard.edu Received on Thu Sep 12 1996 - 12:39:53 GMT

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