Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Duke Law's Copyright Comic, "Bound by Law?"

By Dennis D. McDonald

coversmall.jpgI meant to mention this a while back but it slipped through my fingers.

A Wired interview with the authors reminded me. Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has published a comic book with a free online digital version titled Tales from the Public Domain: BOUND BY LAW?

A cross between a superhero adventure and the Crypt Keeper, the comic by authors Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins tells the story behind the knotty copyright, public domain, and fair use issues associated with contemporary documentary production.

The amount of information communicated is impressive for a 60+ page comic book, I must say. It’s a quality achievement of organization, compression, and great drawing.

Is this a good way to inform young people about copyright law?  I suppose. I think anything that informs people in an interesting and dispassionate way about the at times commercially adversarial considerations associated with a body of law that was originally designed to promote progress in science and the useful arts is a good idea.

I use the phrase “was originally designed” intentionally. One of the major points made in this comic is that the overzealous pursuit by some of exercising control over even small snippets of works that might incidentally show up in documentary films has a potentially chilling effect on creativity and accomplishes the exact opposite of what the law is supposed to do — encourage creativity.

Check out the comic. It’s worth a reading if you have any interest in media, copyright, and fair use. Heck, it might even save you some legal fees!

Bound by Law? Tales from the Public Domain (c) 2006 by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins. Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Duke Law School, ISBN 0974155314.

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