Joke-swiping suit settled

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Jay Leno, Rita Rudner and NBC Studios have settled a federal copyright lawsuit against author Judy Brown and several book publishers over a series of compilation titles that reproduced their jokes, many of which were told on "The Tonight Show," without permission.

The comedians sued Brown and six publishers in November 2006, claiming that the books infringed on their copyrights.

The settlement brings an end to the joke books created by Brown that collected and repackaged thousands of jokes by various comedians under titles including "Joke Soup," "Jokes to Go" and "The Funny Pages."

The settlement also includes monetary compensation, which Leno, Rudner and NBC Studios will donate to charity.

Their attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr. of Los Angeles' Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, said "hundreds of thousands of dollars will go to charity."

The defendant's attorney, Eve Wagner of Los Angeles' Sauer & Wagner, would only say her clients were "pleased the case was amicably resolved."

"I thought it was important to make it clear that jokes are protected like any other art form," Leno said. "On behalf of the tremendous and talented group of writers we have at 'The Tonight Show' and many other hardworking comedians, I'm very glad we've been able to stop this practice once and for all."

Although this case is resolved, the settlement does not create any precedent as to the protection of a comedian's jokes and leaves open the possibility of others filing suit over the use of their jokes in books, including Brown's.
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