Friday, September 21, 2007

Klingons, Kopyright, and Jokes

Cenk Uygur is the host of Air America's morning radio show "The Young Turks." A few people are reported to find him funny, leading some very unfunny Democratic members of Congress as well as unfunny conservative pundits to appear on his show. Mr. Uygur is reported to be suing another funny man, Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report"for $65 million for allegedly stealing a joke of Mr. Uygur's about Klingons. To further his claim, Mr. Uygur recently posted a video on YouTube (here) detailing his claim and posting both parties jokes.

A commentator in AOL News may have summed the matter up nicely, if not a bit crudely:

Star Trek should sue you both for the use of Klingons in your jokes. Nice try at getting some publicity. Live long and prosper! speaking of Klingon jokes: (please don't sue me) Why did Captain Kirk buy a million rolls of toilet paper? To fight the Klingons from Uranus


Anonymous said...

Am I the only person a little uncomfortable with this program's title, the Young Turks? The program's About the Show link says the dictionary definition of a Young Turk is a "Young progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement, or political party. 2. Young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations." Am I overreacting or is this ahistorical approach to the phrase completely irresponsible?

William Patry said...

My discomfort is I find the show painfully unfunny.

Anonymous said...


At the risk of answering a question you really did not mean as a question, you are overreacting (not by being "a little uncomfortable" but with the judgment of "compeletely irresponsible"), IMHO.


Bruce Boyden said...

Even more interesting than the question of whether jokes are copyrightable is whether *Klingon* is copyrightable. Can you copyright a language? I think a language is a tool (perhaps a "system"), rather than expression, but I realize reasonable minds may differ on this.

William Patry said...

Bruce, I have read a few articles about whether languages are protectible, although I don't recall them now. A new language would be original in the sense of meeting the threshold for creativity and presumably being independently created.The question then is whether there is a bar to an otherwise protectible work, as in Section 102(b); e.g., a language is a system.

Dan said...

"Young Turks" was also the name of a Rod Stewart song in the 1980s... was he also completely irresponsible?