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What about copyright and jokes posted?
Old 04-06-2011, 01:27 PM
tony tony is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1,352
Default What about copyright and jokes posted?

I will now post a treatise on copyright and jokes, those jokes posted in our forum Just for Fun, for example.

Those of you who are not interested are dismissed. English majors may stick around and nod in agreement, or not. Lawyers are instructed to read closely and correct me if I am wrong. I have been known to be wrong. Ask Mrs. Tony.

A member asked me a question about passing along jokes that he receives in email to others. He wanted to know if he would be liable.

I said something like the following, paraphrasing poorly, for sure.
Strictly speaking, yes.

I give much, much broader leeway, however, in our Just for Fun forum. Jokes have generally been circulating for years, and the original authors have not asserted their copyrights, and therefore lose the copyright.

For example, when we in the newspaper business ever used the word coke to refer to a soft drink, we got a snotty letter from Coca Cola asserting its trademark registration in this case. (Similar to copyright.) They told us to never do that again. There were asserting their right of ownership so they would not lose it.

The same thing happened with the word realtor. They wanted it used each time capitalized and followed by the registration mark of the circled R. RealtorŪ is owned by the National Board of Realtors. It is not a word for general use, and the national board would take official umbrage. I, of course, put a stop to its being used at all and instead we called them real estate brokers, which is not registered.

The owner of formica, that stuff of countertop fame, was apparently asleep at the switch and did not assert registration or copyright and lost that word to the public domain. It started out in life a word invented by the Formica Corporation for a product, but now we all own it and can use it lower case with impunity. formica formica formica formica formica.

In the case of jokes, if you would ever lift a joke verbatim from a professional comedian who sweated and worked at getting that gag, you could expect to get slapped.

Mostly, though, jokes are seldom claimed by anybody or are lost to the public domain. They also are stories told through the ages from one generation to the next with changes being made appropriate for the times.

If we were to receive a notice about a joke being stolen or infringing, we would remove it and hope the poster would not be fined.

So, if you see a sentence in the newspaper like, "The realtors relaxed after a day's work, sitting around drinking coke and talking about formica," be assured the newspaper will get letters from the National Association of RealtorsŪ and from Coca Cola, but not from the Formica Corporation. It will get under the skin of Formica Corporation, though, and it will once again slap the lawyer who didn't assert enough. formica formica formica formica formica.

I am betting we will not get letters on my infractions here, though, because I am writing a treatise.

Well, what do the English majors and lawyers think about this pressing issue?

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