A San Diego man has filed a lawsuit against Conan O'Brien, TBS and others on the comedian's team for allegedly violating copyright on four jokes.
According to a complaint filed on July 22 in California federal court by Robert Kaseberg, the jokes were posted on a personal blog and on Twitter before making it into O'Brien's late night show monologue.
Kaseberg says he published the first joke in January 14, writing, "A Delta flight this week took off from Cleveland to New York with just two passengers. And they fought over control of the armrest the entire flight."
"We at Conaco firmly believe there is no merit to this lawsuit," responds the production company behind the Conan television show.
The new lawsuit comes amid some focus on joke theft on Twitter. This past week, a few jokes published on the media service were removed, apparently at the request of a freelance writer. This led to numerous articles that Twitter was taking joke theft seriously, though it's probably nothing more than an individual submitting a simple form pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Internet service providers only give light scrutiny towards takedown requests. By expeditiously removing material that's claimed to be a violation of copyright, services like Twitter gain an affirmative defense against copyright liability. Users who have material removed then have the opportunity of submitting a counter-notice, which typically results in restoration and provides notice to the rights holder of whom to sue if there's still a dispute.
Tweets stolen for broadcast television obviously invoke a very different legal process. Kaseberg is demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in actual and statutory damages. Here's the full complaint.
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Conan O'Brien targeted in lawsuit claiming he lifted jokes from Twitter
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OSLO, NORWAY-DECEMBER 11: host Conan O'Brien of United States attends the press conference ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize Concert at the Norwegian Nobel Institute. Tonight's Nobel Peace Prize Concert will be hosted by Conan O'Brien to honour this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on December 11, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Nigel Waldron/ Getty Images)
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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 01: Conan O'Brien arrives to the Children's Defense Fund-California's 26th Annual Beat The Odds Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on December 1, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 01: (L-R) Honorees Destiny Novillo and Cierra Gunderson, host Conan O'Brien, and honorees Alexandra Flores and Jose Aceves onstage during the 26th Annual Beat The Odds Awards, hosted by Children's Defense Fund - California, at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on December 1, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Children's Defense Fund )
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 19: Television host, Conan O'Brien, speaks onstage during 'Our Brands, Ourselves' at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 19, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Conan O'Brien is seen at LAX on October 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by starzfly/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24: Conan O'Brien attends the TBS For Your Consideration event at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on May 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24: (L-R) Kevin Pereira, Conan O'Brien and Jere Burns attend TBS Night Out LA at The Theater at The Ace Hotel on May 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. 26162_001 (Photo by John Sciulli/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 24: Comedian Conan O'Brien attends TBS Night Out LA at The Theater at The Ace Hotel on May 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. 26162_001 (Photo by John Sciulli/WireImage)