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Legal Restriction and Protection of Humor

Encyclopedia of Humor, Salvatore Attardo, ed., Sage, 2014

Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-18

11 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2014 Last revised: 29 May 2014

Laura E. Little

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: April 17, 2014

Abstract

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.

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

Suggested Citation

Little, Laura E., Legal Restriction and Protection of Humor (April 17, 2014). Encyclopedia of Humor, Salvatore Attardo, ed., Sage, 2014; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2426288

Laura E. Little (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-8955 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

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