(HOLLYWOOD REPORTER) -- Is the world of comedy about to experience a "Blurred Lines" moment? On Friday, a federal judge ruled that while jokes based on current events are only entitled to "thin" copyright protection, Conan O'Brien must nevertheless face allegations of lifting three jokes for the monologue of his TBS late-night show. As a result, O'Brien and Time Warner appear headed to something that almost never occurs in the humor business — a trial that would test whether Conan writers took material about Caitlyn Jenner, Tom Brady and the Washington Monument from a freelancer's social media feed and blog.
The plaintiff in the case is Robert "Alex" Kaseberg, who takes credit for more than a thousand jokes used by Jay Leno and whose material has appeared in publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. In California federal court, he asserts that the copyrights on five of his jokes from December 2014 to June 2015 were infringed by Conan.
U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino examined issues surrounding joke creation in weighing a summary judgment motion from O'Brien and the other defendants. She rejected Kaseberg's claims on two jokes, but determined there are genuine disputes as to material facts on the other three. She also left the door open to Kaseberg's proposition that the alleged infringing activity was willful.
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