Commentary

When Is CBS' 'Colbert' Not Colbert?

On TV, you are not always the character you think you are. The host of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” just discovered this about his former on-air “Stephen Colbert” politically incorrect TV host persona.

After he attempted to resurrect the character for “The Late Show," Viacom’s Comedy Central complained. (Viacom is a former sister company of CBS — and could be again, according to massive speculation).

Comedy Central believes the character "Stephen Colbert" is its intellectual property, "which is surprising, since I never considered that guy much of an intellect," Colbert joked on the "Late Show" on Wednesday.

Since his move to CBS, observers wondered whether the Colbert on-screen Comedy Central persona -- a key piece of his success — would make an appearance on the CBS show.

It didn’t until the Republican and Democratic conventions, when the temptation to do so was apparently too great.

"The lawyers have spoken,” said Colbert the night following the return of "Colbert." “I cannot reasonably argue that I own my own face and name. And as much as I'd like to have that guy on again, I can't.”

Well, it turns out if you create some intellectual property while working for an employer, that employer owns that specific piece of IP.

Usually. When David Letterman and Conan O’Brien moved from one late-night show to another, they too wanted to bring some of their creations with them. Letterman -- in moving to CBS from NBC -- was able to bring his “Top Ten List” by calling it “Late Show Top Ten.”

O’Brien, however, couldn’t take along his "Masturbating Bear," “Pimpbot 5000” or “Conando” characters, or recurring segments such as “In the Year 3000” and “Desk Driving.”

Attempting to solve this problem, Colbert introduced his audience to "Stephen Colbert's identical cousin," an interview with himself displaying the same over-the-top, somewhat clueless characteristics.

In this regard, I expect nothing less than Comedy Central hiring an actor to play this character Colbert. Now, there’s comedy for you!

1 comment about " When Is CBS' 'Colbert' Not Colbert?".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, July 29, 2016 at 3:35 p.m.

    Here's a question for any IP attorneys out there;

    Early TV show comedians usually invented and first presented their various characters during their vaudeville days. Wouldn't that mean that the first theater where those characters were displayed "own" those characters in the same way Comedy Central is claiming to own the Colbert character?

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