Two copyright lawyers walk into a bar…

by Carl Natale on October 11, 2010

Flickr photo via TheeErin

Why your business idea is a joke

Stop me if you heard this. No not because I can get sued. You see it’s possible to re-tell a joke that someone else wrote. There is no copyright on jokes.

But the delivery is another matter. So a comedian’s performance of a joke can be protected. It takes more than words to be funny. There’s inflection, timing and body language. Simply protecting the words isn’t needed.

The writers of Saturday Night Live were accused of joke plagiarism last month by sketch comedy writer Tim Heidecker. Whether or not Heidecker’s right, he can’t sue: like fashion, comedy is a world where copyright law barely applies. Comedians don’t copyright their jokes; instead, they rely on an informal system of intellectual property enforcement. Chris Sprigman and Dotan Oliar, two law professors, decided to study how that system works.

via On The Media: Transcript of “Take my Joke, Please” (October 8, 2010).

This is a fascinating look at how intellectual property rights work for comedians. And it reminds me of how little protection there is for business ideas.

There really isn’t any. Your ideas can’t be protected by the legal system. But the market protects your delivery. You know. The quality of your work. Thus you can have different businesses running with the same ideas but get different results.

Ideas really aren’t important. The Internet makes it easy for us to share them and find them. It’s the delivery that makes us successful.

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