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HUMOR

International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 29, Issue 1 (Feb 2016)

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Defending laughter: an account of Brazilian court cases involving humor, 1997–2014

João Paulo Capelotti
  • Corresponding author
  • Tomasetti Jr. & Xavier Leonardo Sociedade de Advogados, Avenida Cândido de Abreu, 651, 16° andar, Centro Cívico, Curitiba, Paraná, 80530-907, Brazil
  • Department of Law, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Praça Santos Andrade 50 3° andar, Curitiba, Paraná 80020-300, Brazil
  • Email:
Published Online: 2016-02-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0128

Abstract

Once any content is published it is subjected to public scrutiny, and tort actions may be brought by people allegedly offended by it. In most of the western world, there are no prior administrative restraints on freedom of speech, but courts can analyze complaints about various forms of expression and, in cases where the content is deemed abusive, award financial compensation to the victim. Naturally, humorous content is not excluded from this principle, and humorists can therefore face lawsuits. The present study researched all competent courts in Brazil where electronic records were available for the period 1997–2014 in order to present an overview of such cases, focusing on the identity of the claimants and the success of their lawsuits. Analysis of these data allowed some trends and inconsistencies in how Brazilian judges deal with cases involving humor to be identified. The first observation is that courts tend to favor humor that is closer to journalistic comment, i. e., humorous pieces relating to subjects of public interest. Humor, however, is not and cannot be limited to this particular type of humor. The second observation is that many judges punish humor that in their view seems to be “exaggerated,” disregarding the fact that exaggeration and unreasonableness are trademarks of humor. Thus, conservative and highly personal positions on the part of judges create an environment of uncertainty surrounding cases involving humor and freedom of speech. It is suggested that better attention to precedents set by Brazilian Higher Courts and a degree of common sense (including a sense of humor) on the part of the judiciary would help overcome judicial bias against humorists.

Keywords: freedom of speech; lawsuits; humorists; Brazil; statistics

References

  • Brazilian Civil Code. 2014. http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/2002/L10406.htm. (accessed 23 November 2014).

  • Brazilian Constitution. 2015. http://www.stf.jus.br/repositorio/cms/portalstfinternacional/portalstfsobrecorte_en_us/anexo/constituicao_ingles_3ed2010.pdf. (accessed 23 July 2015).

  • Brazilian Superior Court of Justice. 2005. Special appeal n. 736.015. Majority opinion written by Judge Nancy Andrighi. Decided on 16 June.

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Websites consulted

  • Brazilian Supreme Court [Supremo Tribunal Federal]: www.stf.jus.br

  • Brazilian Superior Court of Justice [Superior Tribunal de Justiça]: www.stj.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Acre [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Acre]: www.tjac.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Alagoas [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Alagoas]: www.tjal.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Amapá [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Amapá]: www.tjap.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Amazonas [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Amazonas]: www.tjam.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Bahia [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado da Bahia]: www.tjba.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Ceará [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Ceará]: www.tjce.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the Federal District and Territories [Tribunal de Justiça do Distrito Federal e Territórios]: www.tjdft.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Espírito Santo [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Espírito Santo]: www.tjes.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Goiás [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Goiás]: www.tjgo.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Maranhão [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Maranhão]: www.tjma.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Maranhão [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Maranhão]: www.tjma.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Mato Grosso do Sul [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Mato Grosso do Sul]: www.tjms.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Minas Gerais [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Minas Gerais]: www.tjmg.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Pará [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Pará]: www.tjpa.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Paraíba [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado da Paraíba]: www.tjpb.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Paraná [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Paraná]: www.tjpr.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Pernambuco [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Pernambuco]: www.tjpe.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Piauí [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Piauí]: www.tjpi.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Rio de Janeiro [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Rio de Janeiro]: www.tjrj.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Rio Grande do Norte [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte]: www.tjrn.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Rio Grande do Sul [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Rio Grande do Sul]: www.tjrs.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Rondônia [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Rondônia]: www.tjro.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Roraima [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Roraima]: www.tjrr.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Santa Catarina [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Santa Catarina]: www.tjsc.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of São Paulo [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de São Paulo]: www.tjsp.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Sergipe [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Sergipe]: www.tjse.jus.br

  • Court of Appeals for the State of Tocantins [Tribunal de Justiça do Estado do Tocantins]: www.tjto.jus.br

About the article

João Paulo Capelotti

João Paulo Capelotti

PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law from the Federal University of Paraná [Universidade Federal do Paraná – UFPR], Brazil. Master of Law by the same university. Associate member of the International Society for Humor Studies. Member of the Research Group on Private Comparate Law [Núcleo de Direito Privado Comparado], UFPR. Lawyer.


Published Online: 2016-02-16

Published in Print: 2016-02-01



Citation Information: HUMOR, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0128. Export Citation

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