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Conan Is Latest Comedian Accused of Stealing Jokes on Twitter
In the murky land of Twitter, a war rages online- and offline as comedians attempt to protect their writing from other writers.
A San Diego-based freelance writer has accused Conan O’Brien and his team of stealing his jokes. As is often the case with these types of claims, it’s absolutely impossible to know the truth, although common sense may lead you in the right direction. “A Delta flight this week took off from Cleveland to New York with just two passengers. And they fought over control of the armrest the entire flight," one tweet says, and O’Brien told a similar joke that same day.
Plagiarism has been an issue since, I’m assuming, the age of Aristotle. One guy says, “I think therefore I am,” and the next day some Greek faux-losopher is saying the same thing and acting like he wrote it. Today, Twitter is a popular platform for comedy writers, but it has also fostered a new type of 21st century plagiarism and all the accusations — false and otherwise — that accompany that.
Here's why Conan is (probably) not a joke stealer:
First, these bits are based on events that are in the news. Is it so unusual to think a room full of writers would have the same take on a news story as someone else who writes jokes professionally? More than one time I’ve thrown blunt objects at my computer screen after seeing a sketch that is similar to something I wrote, or heard a joke that is similar to one I made. There is nothing bizarre about a comedian having the same sensibilities as other comedians.
Given this particular coincidence wasn’t a one-time occurrence, that brings me to my second point: the jokes are really obvious.
I don’t mean that as a knock against the freelance writer or O’Brien’s staff. As Alec Baldwin once said on 30 Rock in reference to Jay Leno, “There’s nothing wrong with being popular and giving people want they want.” And in this case, with all four jokes that are in contention, not one of them is so clever that I as a writer am thinking, “No way, only one person in the whole world could come up with a take that unique. Did someone make a hologram of George Carlin? I’ve never heard a joke like this. Stop the metaphorical presses!” I highly doubt that intellectual property violations were involved in any way. I’d more likely believe telepathy or ESP than Andy Richter going on Twitter and finding a goldmine of run-of-the-mill tweets and bringing them back to the writers room, giddy with his mediocre discovery. “Guys, look what I found! Things we could have thought of ourselves!”
Independent of individuals like the one involved in the Conan case, there are times when a joke actually is stolen, and often it is on Twitter. The social media site, to its credit, is now taking that funny business a bit more seriously. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which sounds like it was created in a courtroom in outer space, but was not), Twitter generally does not protect a user’s tweets unless it infringed on, say, a movie clip or photograph.
Twitter does have a forum wherein you can state your claim and they will take action against the offender, but writers are taking things into their own hands as well. One has gone to the media regarding her stolen tweets, and there is also the (awesome) account @PlagiarismBad which has a list of over 4,000 users who have not yet realized that plagiarism is, in fact, bad.
Times have changed, but the love of stealing ideas remains a prevalent issue, particularly in the realm of comedy and especially as technology has expanded and exploded. This will continue to be something writers contend with, but perhaps technology will also lead to greater accountability.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.