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Comedians including Jay Leno and Rita Rudner have settled their lawsuit against a humor editor accused of stealing jokes for several book anthologies.
Judy Brown and her publishers have agreed to apologize and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to Leno and other comedians for the books, “The Funny Pages,” “Funny You Should Know That” and “Joke Stew.”
In a statement, Leno said, “”I thought it was important to make it clear that jokes are protected like any other art form.”
From a legal standpoint, that might be true, although “joke theft” has a very long tradition in the humor business. Although the practice is much reviled, comedians such as Bill Cosby and Robin Williams have been accused of thievery. Carlos Mencia is a favorite recent target. Recently, Steven Colbert was threatened with a $65 million lawsuit for stealing jokes.
That said, if there’s one form of IP theft that can’t be laughed off, it’s not only stealing the joke, but leaving a trail of evidence for a humorless court to review. Leno and friends were represented by First Amendment guru Ted Boutrous at Gibson Dunn.
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