A joke consists of a setup, a premise, and a punch line. It is likely that jokes can be copyrighted under existing laws. However, several facts leave comedians to protect themselves by private means. First, the registration fee for copyright precludes most comedians from registering their jokes. More importantly, this article suggests, the scenes a faire doctrine may prevent comedians from effectively protecting the most important part of jokes the punch line. To make the law more clear, the author recommends a simple addition of jokes to the enumerated list of protected material in the Copyright Acts. Although this change would not resolve all issues, including the relationship of jokes to the scenes a faire doctrine, it would provide a clearer framework for judges to settle such peripheral issues.
Allen D. Madison,
The Uncopyrightability of Jokes,
San Diego L. Rev.
Available at: https://digital.sandiego.edu/sdlr/vol35/iss1/4