IP & Copyright
Stephen Colbert Doesn’t Own His “Colbert Report” Character
It appears that Stephen Colbert doesn’t own “Stephen Colbert.” Rather, Colbert, the host of CBS’s “The Late Show,” doesn’t own the rights to the character he developed and played for almost 20 years on Comedy Central.
On Wednesday, Colbert announced on his show that the “Stephen Colbert” character from “The Colbert Report” is the intellectual property of Viacom, Comedy Central’s parent company, and would “never be seen again.” In response to disappointed “boos” by the audience, he responded, “I understand, but what can I do? The lawyers have spoken. I cannot reasonably argue I own my face or name.”
Last week, he brought back his former alternate persona in order to make sense of the Trump nomination, using one of his signature bits called “The Word.”
After the show aired, however, “corporate lawyers” from Colbert’s former network allegedly reached out to claim their IP over the character. “Stephen Colbert,” the faux-conservative newsman, was a feature on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” before receiving his own show on the network in 2005. Last year, Colbert retired the character after taking over for David Letterman on CBS.
While this may be sad news for the “Colbert Nation,” don’t fret just yet: Colbert may have found a suitable alternative. After announcing the end of “Stephen Colbert,” he introduced “Stephen Colbert’s identical twin, “Stephen Colbert,” who may be a worthy replacement. He also introduced his new segment “WERD,” which bears only a slight resemblance to “The Word.”
So far, there is no news on whether Viacom’s legal team has fired back to challenge the eerie similarities between the new “Colbert” and his retired cousin.
The Hollywood Reporter notes the legal complexities surrounding this case, and explains why “Stephen Colbert’s identical twin cousin” may avoid copyright infringement claims and may actually be able to qualify for its own copyright. However, the article notes that if the new character earns a separate copyright, it would probably be owned by CBS rather than Colbert himself. So, let’s hope that Colbert stays where he is, otherwise, he may need to pull out another extended family member if he wants his satirical alter-ego to live on.
While Colbert himself may have abandoned his Comedy Central show last year, it appears he hasn’t let go of the character that millions have grown to love.