Virginia State Bar

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Intellectual Property Law

A Section of the Virginia State Bar.

Section News and Information

September 6, 2019

Comedy and Copyright: University of Richmond Law Student Wins IP Writing Competition

Third-year law student Matthew L. Pangle won the Intellectual Property Section writing contest this year with a paper that explores the legality behind laughs.  

Judge Richard Linn, senior circuit judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, selected the winning submission, a paper entitled, “The Last Laugh: A Case Study in Copyright of Comedy and the Virtual Identity Standard.” 

Pangle, who studies at the University of Richmond School of Law, wrote about copyright in a comedy world that’s more crowded than ever. “[W]ith comedy’s resurgence over popular platforms like Netflix and Twitter, along with the emerging force of intellectual property law, copyright protection is becoming a major player in policing infringement of comedians’ material,” writes Pangle. 

He explains the “virtual identify standard” and argues that, while creating a high bar for plaintiff comedians claiming infringement, it incentivizes creativity and facilities open expression in the comedy world. Read Pangle’s winning submission here (pdf).

Linn says that all of the papers selected and sent to him for final review were interesting, thoughtful, and well-written. But Pangle’s paper stood out based on its “crisp and clear style, its logical organization and presentation, and its thorough citation support. It’s an easy and informative read.”

This is the third year in a row that a student studying law at the University of Richmond has won the competition.

Pangle will receive his award of $5,000 at the IP Section’s seminar in Arlington later this month.