Legal Restriction and Protection of Humor
Laura E. Little
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law
April 17, 2014
Encyclopedia of Humor, Salvatore Attardo, ed., Sage, 2014
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-18
Law and humor intersect in many ways. First, humor provides an essential vehicle for the social critique of the many foibles of lawyers, legislators, judges, and the legal process. In addition, lawyers, judges, and law makers sometimes try to be funny as they dispatch their duties. And then there’s a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon: the lawyer joke, which exposes important insights into how society views lawyers and the legal process.
Yet the substance of the law also interacts with humor as well. This entry in the first ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HUMOR surveys these interactions between legal regulation and humor. The entry first describes how laws such as the First Amendment and intellectual property laws protect humor. The second half of the entry analyzes instances where the law restricts humor, with emphasis on defamation law, contract law, trademark violations, and employment discrimination laws. This latter part concludes that the law tends to avoid regulating humor that contains a significant degree of incongruity.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 11
Keywords: humor, comedy, lawyer joke, regulation of humor, regulation of jokes, First Amendment, intellectual property, contract, trademark violation, employment discrimination, incongruity
JEL Classification: K10, K20, K31, K42
Date posted: April 18, 2014 ; Last revised: May 29, 2014
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