Information Superhighway Robbery – Why Twitter Isn’t The Safest Place To Keep Your Valuables
“If you sit on your parents until they go numb, it feels like somebody else is bitterly disappointed in you”.
I’d love to be able to say that I thought of that joke, but sadly this is not the case. That honour goes to a man who goes by Twitter handle @ChribHibble. That joke is still the funniest thing I’ve read on Twitter and every once in a while, I tweet it. I always credit it to Mr @ChribHibble of course. It’s only right and proper.
Not everyone thinks like me in this respect though. If you put a joke on Twitter, someone will inevitably steal it and claim it as their own. This isn’t that big a problem if you’re just an ordinary Joe messing about on the internet. If you earn your living writing jokes, however, it can be a threat to your livelihood.
Robert Kaseberg is a professional comedy writer and he is mounting a legal case to claim damages for four jokes he claims were stolen from his Twitter account. Within hours of tweeting his jokes, he says, they were used on the Conan O’Brien Show.
He is seeking damages of $750,000. That’s just over $187,000 per joke. They must have been the most awesome jokes ever written, yes? Well, let’s find out. Here’s one of the jokes in question:
“The Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than previously thought. You know it’s cold when a monument suffers from shrinkage.”
No, I don’t really get it either. Maybe there’s some American political information I’m not privy to, but that sounds like a poorly constructed knob gag to me. Perhaps the other three jokes were worth $250,000 each and he was going to throw that one in for free.
Still, it doesn’t matter if the jokes were funny or not. What matters is that the writers of the Conan O’Brien show thought they were funny and stole them. Allegedly.
What puzzles me is why these jokes were on Twitter in the first place. If Robert Kaseberg was planning on selling these jokes, why did he put them out in the public domain before he’d received payment?
Twitter isn’t like your front porch out in the countryside. You can’t stick your wares on it with a list of recommended payments and an honesty box.
Twitter is more like the boardwalk outside a Wild West saloon. Leave your wares on there and people will shoot them, piss on them, yell drunkenly at them and kick them into the road. Or steal them, of course, if they’re still in a suitable condition.
If you’re a professional comedy writer and you post your best stuff online before you’ve been paid, then your agent needs to have a bit of a word in your ear. Especially if you think you can sell your jokes in batches of four and charge three quarters of a million dollars a pop. I wouldn’t like to pitch that business model on Dragons’ Den.
The only way you would get that kind of money would be from the military. If the jokes were so funny that you could weaponize them. Like the joke in that old Monty Python sketch that could make enemy soldiers die with laughter at a range of several hundred yards.
If you’re an aspiring comedy writer, putting your jokes on Twitter is a great way to get noticed. If you already earn your living writing comedy, putting your jokes on Twitter is a great way to die from starvation.
Do it and your parents will be bitterly disappointed in you whether you sit on them until they go numb or not.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015