Television: The Blunted Needle

Television's most talked-about panel last week was the U.S. Supreme Court, which may well have blunted the already dull needle of parody-on-the-air by ruling that "substantial" borrowing from an original work for a spoof is a violation of the copyright laws.

The ruling came on Jack Benny's 1953 Autolight, a is-minute filmed take-off on the 1944 movie Gaslight, which copied Gaslight's situations, scantily paraphrased many lines, even used the same names for its characters. Benny's lawyers admitted that Autolight closely reflected Gaslight, and argued this has always been necessary for good parody. The court split four to four (the missing justice: William...

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