Conan O’Brien Hit With Lawsuit, Accused Of Stealing Jokes From Twitter
Conan O’Brien is being sued by comedy writer Robert ‘Alex’ Kaseberg for allegedly stealing four of his jokes from Twitter.
Robert ‘Alex’ Kaseberg Sues Conan O’Brien For Allegedly Stealing Jokes
Kaseberg, who runs a Twitter account with 1,338 followers and has a blog titled “A Little Bit Bad. Comedy Writer Alex Kaseberg,” is claiming that three of his jokes posted to Twitter and his blog ended up in O’Brien monologues on his late night talk show, Conan, less than 24 hours after Kaseberg had made them public.
On Feb 19, Kaseberg took his case public on his blog, writing about how he came to believe O’Brien, or someone on his writing staff, was plagiarizing his jokes. The first instance of plagiarism, Kaseberg claimed, came in January 2015. According to Kaseberg, the day before, on Jan. 14, he wrote this joke on a blog: “A Delta flight from Cleveland to New York took off with only two passengers. And they wrestled for control of the armrest the entire flight.” On the night of Jan. 15, O’Brien made a similar joke during his monologue on Conan. This alleged theft occurred twice more in the coming weeks, Kaseberg claimed, and ended with a very unpleasant phone call with Mike Sweeney, Conan’s head writer.
In Kaseberg’s blog post, he writes that O’Brien told the Delta Airlines joke mentioned above “word for word.” In fact, the official Conan website does have a record of that joke (though the video of O’Brien’s monologue is no longer available.) According to Conan, what O’Brien said during his monologue was: “On Monday, a Delta flight from Cleveland to New York took off with just 2 passengers. Yet somehow, they spent the whole flight fighting over the armrest.”
The following two jokes Kaseberg believes were stolen include one about Tom Brady and the Super Bowl and another about the Washington Monument. Below you can see both versions of the jokes (and their alleged time stamp) retrieved from Kaseberg’s blog and the official Conan website. It should be noted that Kaseberg’s Twitter profile does not
KASEBERG: “Tom Brady has decided to give his Super Bowl MVP truck to the man who won the game for the Patriots. So enjoy that truck Pete Carroll.” – Feb 3, 2015 at 9:02 a.m.
Tom Brady is going to give his MVP truck to the guy who won the game for the Patriots. So enjoy that truck, Pete Carroll.
— Alex Kaseberg (@AlexKaseberg) February 3, 2015
O’BRIEN: “Tom Brady said he wants to give the truck he was given as the Super Bowl MVP to the guy who won the Super Bowl for the Patriots. So Brady is giving his truck to Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.” – Feb 4, 2015
KASEBERG: “It turns out the Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than previously thought. You know it has been a cold winter when even a monument has shrinkage.” – Feb. 17, 2015 at 11:20 a.m.
Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than previously thought. You know the winter has been rough when a monument suffers from shrinkage
— Alex Kaseberg (@AlexKaseberg) February 17, 2015
O’BRIEN: “Surveyors announced that the Washington Monument is 10 inches shorter than what’s been recorded. Of course, the monument is blaming the shrinkage on the cold weather.” – Feb 17, 2015
Kaseberg is reportedly asking for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in damages.
Andy Richter Defends Conan O’Brien
Andy Richter, O’Brien’s sidekick on Conan, responded to the suit on Twitter, making fun of the controversy, writing, “There’s no possible way more than one person could have concurrently had these same species-elevating insights! THESE TAKES ARE TOO HOT!”
There’s no possible way more than one person could have concurrently had these same species-elevating insights! THESE TAKES ARE TOO HOT!
— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) July 27, 2015
Dax Shepard appeared to side with Richter and O’Brien, answering one of Richer’s tweets with a biting comment of his own. “I know! Cause I NEVER read the same joke 10 times by 10 different people who don’t know each other on Twitter. Never.”
@AndyRichter I know! Cause I NEVER read the same joke 10 times by 10 different people who don’t know each other on Twitter. Never.
— dax shepard (@daxshepard1) July 27, 2015
Fellow comedian Nick Kroll also hopped on the bandwagon, making fun of the scandal by tweeting the exact same thing as Shepard.
— nick kroll (@nickkroll) July 27, 2015
— nick kroll (@nickkroll) July 27, 2015
Twitter Cracks Down On Comedy Plagiarism
Jokes aside, Kaseberg’s suit was filed on July 22, and it seems Twitter might be taking notice. This week, Twitter users noticed that certain jokes and common observances were being deleted from Twitter due to copyright infringement.
BREAKING NEWS: Twitter is hiding tweets reported stolen. And it’s referring to the author as a “copyright holder” pic.twitter.com/DkteWMZ7zg
— Plagiarism Is Bad (@PlagiarismBad) July 25, 2015
Twitter user @runolgarun – also known as writer Olga Lexell – has largely been credited for Twitter’s apparent crackdown on Twitter plagiarism, especially when it comes to comedy. On July 8, Lexell tweeted “saw someone spill their high end juice clense all over the sidewalk and now I know god is on my side.”
saw someone spill their high end juice cleanse all over the sidewalk and now I know god is on my side
— uh (@runolgarun) July 9, 2015
One week later, Lexell shared a screenshot of her joke being tweeted by other accounts without giving her credit.
— uh (@runolgarun) July 16, 2015
Lexell filed complaints with Twitter, and the social media site then removed what were deemed plagiarized jokes. After the story went viral, Lexell defended her decision to protect her tweets as intellectual property, writing, “I simply explained to Twitter that as a freelance writer I make my living writing jokes (and I use some of my tweets to test out jokes in my other writing). I then explained that as such, the jokes are my intellectual property, and that the users in question did not have my permission to repost them without giving me credit.”
If you’re wondering why Twitter complied with my copyright takedown requests. pic.twitter.com/MNzZPCHWNc
— uh (@runolgarun) July 25, 2015