Interesting article on the BBC News website on copyright and jokes. No not jokes about copyright, but more if you repeat a joke are you infringing copyright.
Matthew Harris of intellectual property specialists Waterfront Solicitors say that, in theory, a joke can be copyrighted – but with shorter, snappier gags which rely on abstract ideas rather than specific plots, any infringement would be difficult to prove in an English court.
“The joke would have to be more than just a few words long,” he says.
“As long as it’s not word-for-word identical, there would have to be a relatively detailed plot [for it to breach copyright]. And if that plot were so abstract as to fall within the general field of comedic tools, that’s fairly debatable.
“I think a one-liner would fall on the cusp of what’s covered by the law.”
So here is a question if you repeat a joke you heard on TV, radio or on Twitter, in the classroom are you in breach of copyright?
From the Copyright Act:
The performance of a literary, dramatic or musical work before an audience consisting of teachers and pupils at an educational establishment and other persons directly connected with the activities of the establishment
(a) by a teacher or pupil in the course of the activities of the establishment, or
(b) at the establishment by any person for the purposes of instruction,
is not a public performance for the purposes of infringement of copyright.
However this is only the case if the joke is for the purpose of instruction and not say entertainment.
One thought on “Can a joke be copyrighted?”
Guardian article on copyrighting jokes.