THR ran an interesting guest column over the weekend called "Why It's So Hard to Get the Law to Protect a Good Joke" that explores intellectual rights and the Copyright Act in the context of joke theft accusations between comedians, pointing out the craft of comedy as some of the most difficult material to protect due to its always-evolving nature. From the article:
Although comedians may start with a written work — a script — the performance of the work rarely occurs without deviation. As a result, copyright may not issue because the work of authorship is not "fixed" in the manner necessary to establish a basis for [...]
Unpopular Opinions is a new weekly column in which a writer takes a stand against popular opinion, whether it's asserting the true merit of a supposedly guilty pleasure or dissenting against the universally lauded.
Joke “stealing” is not a new phenomenon. Hell, Milton Berle basically made a career out of it, earning himself the nickname, “The Thief of a Bad Gag.” With the rise of the Internet and cellphone cameras, however, it seems like fans have started to care more. But how did something that used to only be a comedy community matter give birth to a legion of joke vigilantes?
Let’s start with a couple examples.