May 24, 2019

Joke theft… it's no laughing matter

Its not very often you hear of copyright lawsuits involving the theft of jokes, but American television host and comedian, Conan O'Brien, has been accused of exactly that.

O'Brien is best known for hosting several late-night talk shows, most notably Conan which first premiered in 2010 and continues to be aired Monday through Thursday in the US.  The talk show draws its humour from celebrities, political figures and news stories.

In 2015, O'Brien was accused by Robert Alexander Kaseberg of stealing five jokes from Kaseberg's twitter account.  Kaseberg alleged that O'Brien, and his writers, had stolen jokes in relation to Tom Brady, Caitlyn Jenner and the Washington Monument after coming across them online. The lawsuit named the Conan production company, Conaco, head writer Mike Sweeney, executive producer Jess Ross as well as TBS, and alleged copyright infringement of the jokes in question. O'Brien and his team of lawyers argued that the jokes were not original enough to warrant legal protection; however, the judge rule that there was enough originality in three of the jokes to move the matter forward.

Fast forward 4 years and the lawsuit has now settled just before it was due to go to trial later this month in the San Diego Federal Court. The facts of the settlement have not been disclosed however Kaseberg was seeking $450,000 in damages.

O'Brien has since commented on the lawsuit, explaining that "different people around the world come up with the same joke all the time", drawing on the fact that when you team Twitter's 321 million users with a sizeable amount of budding comedy writers, the creation of the same jokes becomes all too easy.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or

in: Copyright, News

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