Does Comedy Central own the rights to Stephen Colbert’s former character on the Colbert Report?

August 18, 2016Media Mention
Inside Counsel (free subscription)

Stephen Colbert became famous for playing a fictional version of himself on the Colbert Report in a bit called "The Word" (you can watch the last video from "The Word" uploaded to YouTube here.)

Now that he's moved from Comedy Central to CBS, he's started to introduce that same character to Late Show audiences, much to Comedy Central's displeasure. They have even sent a letter demanding that Colbert stop performing this character on the Late Show.

Networks fiercely protect their intellectual property for all sorts of reasons. Copyright laws are meant to protect against other people using protectable characters without permission. David Letterman also made fun of NBC’s minor protests when he joined Late Show in 1993 — but he ended up with his “Top Ten” just the same. So, can someone own the rights to a character you create that is actually yourself? Jesse Saivar, partner at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger sat down with Inside Counsel to discuss this controversial topic and help us answer these questions.