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Howard Zaharoff Speaks at The Kevin Knox Project: The Business of Comedy 11/15/2011

Posted by Morse Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News.
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IP and Technology Licensing Attorney Howard ZaharoffOn November 12th the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) presented “The Kevin Knox Project: The Business of Comedy (not so funny)“, a two-hour seminar for comedians and performing artists during the Boston Comedy Festival. A panel of attorneys, including MBBP IP and Technology Licensing Attorney Howard Zaharoff, presented and led a workshop on copyrighting jokes and performances and other legal issues of concern to comics.

For more information on the seminar, please visit the VLA.

Please contact Howard with any questions.


1. amy - 11/16/2011

How many lawyers does it take to copyright a joke?

2. Howard Zaharoff - 12/05/2011

It doesn’t take any lawyers to copyright a joke. Copyright protection is automatic: the moment a writer, artist or performer “fixes” his or her words, images or performance in tangible form, it is automatically protected by copyright law. However, these rights can be enhanced by two measures: a proper copyright notice on all published copies of the work, and registration of the work with the US Copyright Office.

One lawyer is generally sufficient to prepare and file the claim of copyright with the Copyright Office, assuming the client is cooperative and provides the necessary information. Two is a luxury. Three and you’re probably being bilked.

It is worth noting that copyright protects only the “expressive” aspects of a joke, i.e., the specific words, images and the like used by the author, NOT the underlying ideas. Indeed, if the idea behind the joke can be expressed in only one or two ways (try rephrasing “Take my wife, please”), copyright probably won’t even protect those words.

You don’t get down off a lawyer. You get down off a goose.

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