It looks like the joke’s over for an author of comedy books.
A case (second item here) filed in 2006 on behalf of Jay Leno, NBC Studios and several other comedians — who claimed their jokes were replicated without permission in author Judy Brown’s books — has settled.
“We got everything and more than we could have gotten if we had kept litigating,” said Theodore Boutrous Jr., a Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner representing the plaintiffs. “We stopped further distribution of the books, and got a substantial monetary supplement.”
Brown also pledged to never again copy any of the plaintiffs' jokes without permission, Boutrous said.
Leno, along with fellow plaintiff Rita Rudner and NBC Studios, is donating the proceeds to charity. And Gibson, Dunn is donating a portion of its returns as well.
“If Jay and Rita were going to give their recoveries to charity, we figured we would do it, too,” Bourtrous said.
Boutrous said it was interesting to learn more about the world of comedians — such as how even big stars like Leno take great pains to create their work, and test out its comedic value.
“They do it because of a passion,” he said. “It’s been very gratifying working with them and helping protect comedy writing.”
Protecting that kind of creativity is important, he added.
“This sends a message to others that comedy writing is a creative process that gets protection,” he said. “You really did feel it was a great cause: protecting great work by artists.”
— Kellie Schmitt