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by Vault Law Editors | March 31, 2010

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Excellent guest post at the Freakonomics blog by law professors Kal Raustiala of UCLA and and Chris Sprigman of UVA on the subject of copyright infringement, joke thievery, and social norms.  An excerpt:

Using informal group norms and sanctions, comedians are able to control joke-stealing. Without the intervention of copyright law, comedians are able to assert ownership of jokes, regulate their use and transfer, impose sanctions on joke-thieves, and maintain substantial incentives to invest in new material.

This presents a challenge to the conventional economic rationale for intellectual property rights. Absent legal protection, the usual theory goes, there will be too few creative works produced — authors and inventors would be unlikely to recoup their cost of creation, so they won’t bother creating in the first place.

Read the whole thing.  The professors use the infamous Joe Rogan/Carlos Mencia dustup as the post’s hook, but other notable comic plagiarism feuds have included David Brenner vs. Robin Williams, Louis CK vs. Dane Cook, and Bill Hicks vs. Denis Leary (language nsfw for all links).

-posted by brian

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