Clown Eggs

68 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2018 Last revised: 11 May 2020

See all articles by Dave Fagundes

Dave Fagundes

University of Houston Law Center

Aaron Perzanowski

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: March 8, 2018


Since 1946, many clowns have recorded their makeup by having it painted on eggs that are kept in a central registry in Wookey Hole, England. This tradition, which continues today, has been referred to alternately as a form of informal copyright registration and a means of protecting clowns’ property in their personae. This Article explores the clown egg register and its surrounding practices from the perspective of law and social norms. In so doing, it makes several contributions. First, it contributes another chapter to the growing literature on the norms-based governance of intellectual property, showing how clowns—like comedians, roller derby skaters, tattoo artists, and other subcultures—have developed an elaborate informal scheme in lieu of state- created copyright or trademark law to regulate their creative production. Second, this Article explores a rarer phenomenon in the norm-based IP context: formalized registration related to norm-based ownership rules. It shows that the Register exists not only to support those rules, but also serves a host of non- exclusion functions, including expressing members’ professionalism, conferring a sense of prestige, and creating a historical record. Finally, this Article shows how its analysis of the Clown Egg Register offers lessons for the study of registers in the context of tangible and intellectual property alike.

Keywords: norms, property, informal ownership, registration, copyright, trademark, creativity without law, IP without IP

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Fagundes, Dave and Perzanowski, Aaron, Clown Eggs (March 8, 2018). Notre Dame Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Dave Fagundes (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Rd.
Houston, TX 77204
United States
713.743.1431 (Phone)
713.743.2238 (Fax)


Aaron Perzanowski

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics