For The Record

Photo illustration by Katie McBride

The fields of comedy and law don’t often converge — or, as Matthew Pangle, L’20, puts it, “Usually, when someone steals a joke, you don’t go to court over it.”

The exception to that rule is the subject of Pangle’s recent scholarship on the intersection of copyright law and comedy — a paper that won the Virginia State Bar’s Intellectual Property Section Student Writing Competition. Pangle was the third consecutive Richmond Law student to win.

In “The Last Laugh: A Case Study in Copyright of Comedy and the Virtual Identity Standard,” Pangle explores Kaseberg v. Conaco LLC, in which a freelancer brought claims against Conan O’Brien and his writers for copying tweeted jokes. When the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California decided that the jokes met the threshold for copyright protection and that the case would go before a jury, O’Brien’s team decided to settle.

Pangle’s takeaway: “Courts are beginning to take jokes seriously.”