With artists and their work, ownership is not always clear

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2016 | Intellectual Property |

Although some media reports of a presently circulating story regarding well-known entertainer Stephen Colbert are expressing a fair bit of surprise regarding its details, the tale actually focuses on well-worn subject matter in the entertainment industry.

And that is this: considerations surrounding ownership of creative material that is publicly used.

Industry principals fight about that, and for this obvious reason: The party with intellectual property rights in a screenplay, a song, a television premise or any other mental creation commands a lofty position if/when that intellectual property becomes profitable.

Here’s a quick look at the Colbert matter. In a nutshell, he recently resurrected a hugely popular fictional character he employed when hosting Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. In that guise, he then provided comedic commentary on the just-concluded national political conventions on his relatively new show at CBS.

That didn’t sit well with his former employer. According to one recent account, it “enflamed” passions at Comedy Central, leading to officials there claiming that their ex-employee’s use of the character without permission violated their intellectual property rights.

The above-cited media focus points out an echo in the case, namely, a reminder from decades past of the commonality in such case details. Notably, public sparring resulted between NBC and David Letterman more than 20 years ago when he continued with comedy bits on CBS that were first introduced and honed on his earlier NBC show (remember Stupid Pet Tricks?).

There are no strong indications currently of how the Colbert/Comedy Central spat will ultimately play out.

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