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"Bound by Law" - PJ: "I love this book. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal."
Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 07:51 AM EST

You have got to see this. Three law professors have written a comic book, Bound by Law? (Tales from the Public Domain), explaining US copyright law, specifically as it currently impacts documentary filmmakers. The book reminds me a bit of Scott McCloud's work, whom I gratefully acknowledge as an influence on me, although I can never explain in words exactly how. I just know I never would have tried to do Groklaw if I hadn't read "Understanding Comics."

When I started Groklaw, the influence was a bit more clear because my idea was to combine graphics and text in ways I hoped would be funny because of nuanced juxtapositions, letting the combination of text with pictures say more than I could with just words. I could never get clearances on the graphics in time, though, so I ended up having to give graphics up and just stick to creating funny images in your mind as best I can with words. That's fun too, of course, but I have this creative yearning that isn't satisfied with text only. This comic book is fun and funny and clear, because that is what they do -- nuanced juxtapositions of text with graphics.

By the time people started to make graphics available under Creative Commons licenses, I was a guest on ibiblio, so I can't be a bandwidth hog, being a guest and all. But books like this are a thrill to me, and it reminded me that when I do my book on the SCO saga, if it ever ends, pant pant, I'd love to do something like this, if I could find a graphic artist I could work well with creatively.

The comic book is on copyright law and what documentary filmmakers go through as far as clearances are concerned. But if you want to read it as a clear explanation of how the law works right now, particularly how fair use works, for example, you surely can. I can see using this book in classes in schools and universities. I would be willing to bet someone will think to present a copy to their Congresscritter. Or read it just for fun. It is brilliant and I enjoyed it tremendously.

They must have done something right to get positive reviews from both Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing and Brandt Goldstein of the Wall Street Journal:

“Bound By Law lays out a sparkling, witty, moving and informative story about how the eroded public domain has made documentary filmmaking into a minefield.” -Cory Doctorow,

“Bound by Law translates law into plain English and abstract ideas into ‘visual metaphors.’ So the comic's heroine, Akiko, brandishes a laser gun as she fends off a cyclopean 'Rights Monster' - all the while learning copyright law basics, including the line between fair use and copyright infringement.” -Brandt Goldstein, The Wall Street Journal online

OK, they didn't ask me. But here's my blurb:

I love this book. Read it. Buy it. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal." - PJ, Groklaw

: )

The three law professors are:

James Boyle, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and one of the founders of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, and a board member of Creative Commons. You know him best, probably, from his columns in Financial Times.

Next, Keith Aoki is the cartoonist and I note a declared lover of Scott McCloud's work too, not to mention Al Capp's and others from the 1960s, as well as being influenced by contempories like McCloud, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and Jamie Hernandez. Aoki eventually went to law school and is also now the Philip H. Knight Professor of law at the University of Oregon School of Law, where he specializes in intellectual property law. He also plays bass for The Garden Weasels, "a band that is generally described as being 'pretty good considering it is made up entirely of law professors'."

The third attorney is Jennifer Jenkins, who is director of Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, where she heads the "Arts project" and teaches a seminar on IP, the Public Doman and Free Speech. She was one of the lawyers who defended the publisher of Alice Randall's "The Wind Done Gone," a parody of "Gone With the Wind," a case that was a pivotal decision regarding rights to parody copyrighted characters and scenes under US copyright law's fair use umbrella. The book refers to the case along with a number of major fair use cases.

On the About the Authors page it says that Boyle and Jenkins wrote the text, but it was designed by all of its authors "in innumerable, hilarious and occasionally manic conference calls" and then drawn by Aoki, who, his co-authors say, "is far too talented to be a law professor."

The book was made possible by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Thank you, Rockefeller Foundation. This was a very good use of your money. I loved this book, and I believe it will make a difference. Give it to every confused Copyright Overreacher you know, by all means. Well. Not all. Don't send anything to SCOfolk. It's too late. They won't get it, I dare say, and they'll turn around and misread your good motives and accuse you of DDoSing them or something silly ("Linux zealots send 50,000 copies of Bound by Law? to SCO headquarters -- SCO execs now armed and dangerous.") See? We don't need headlines like that. Leave those folks alone so they can drift off into the sunset on their little chunk of melting ice without disturbance of any kind.

Why didn't the three professors just write another scholarly paper for a law review expressing the thoughts in the book? They wanted to reach a broader audience. "For some strange reason," the authors explain, "none of our intended audiences seem eager to read scholarly law review articles. What's more, there is something perverse about explaining an essentially visual and frequently surreal reality in gray, lawyerly prose. Finally, what could better illustrate the process we describe than a work which has to feature literally hundreds of copyrighted works in order to tell its story, a living exercise in fair use?"

Another deep purpose was to help young people understand that there are good things about copyright law too, not just restrictions (see page 30, for example), and to express that much of what is going on with demands for payments and clearances have nothing to do with the law as it stands but are rather "a manifestation of a 'permissions culture' premised on the belief that copyright gives its owners the right to demand payment for every type of usage, no matter its length, or its purpose, or the context in which it is set. But that is not, and never has been the law."

The book encourages readers to understand how fair use works so they will be empowered to know how to make use of their fair use rights, and not just cave in to aggressive copyright overreachers.

They also explain a bit about how trademark law works (see page 48) and what your rights are there. Lawyers have been known to be aggressive. It's what they do. But it doesn't necessarily mean they are right. Look at SCO. There are resources at the end of the book, including a reference to an organization that provides legal representation to artists.

They add that while they are "stodgy believers in the copyright system", that law is not an end in itself. It is supposed to be a tool to promote creation and distribution of knowledge and culture. That is its Constitutional goal, and in that, they state, it is failing in the digital age:

"But from the depths of our stodginess comes this little message -- the system appears to have gone astray, to have lost sight of its original goal."

The book explains it all, including the last retrospective lengthening of the copyright term. Happily, they say this is the first in a series that Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain plans dealing with the effects of IP on art and culture. I'd love to see one on patent law. That'd be funny if you just listed some of the patents. There's a standup comic in New York who reads patent applications as part of his act. No. Really. It's funny. Put some of that stuff in a comic book, and you'll be on the floor. Maybe then somebody will get it that we are destroying the ability to be creative. Everyone is concentrating so hard on protecting those who already created something, they are forgetting about the next creative souls, who need something to work with and don't have $10,000 for a license to use a ten-second clip of a song.

This book is not an anti-copyright book, nor will it support ideas some few may have that the solution to a law you don't like is to violate it. These are still IP lawyers, after all. But they do present the need for a better balance, what they end up calling a cultural environmental movement. Traditionally, they say, we had a "thin layer of intellectual property protection surrounding a large and rich public domain. It didn't cover very much, and it didn't cover it for very long. Now, the balance between what is and isn't protected has been upset. Copyright law may no longer serve the interests of creators." The protection is now so long, it "effectively ropes off most of 20th century culture."

One of the characters in the book looks like Jamie Boyle -- I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference once. And look on page 21 for a drawing of Larry Lessig as the Statue of Liberty. ("Give me your wired, remixing masses, yearning to be free," it says on the base, with the happy double C logo of Creative Commons.) The book is fun and funny, despite its serious purpose, and I think you are going to love it.

You can read it online, and you can also buy it here, where you'll find a link to ordering it for $5.95 plus shipping from Amazon. There are discounted rates for use in educational settings and for those buying in bulk, only $4.00 per book, including shipping.


"Bound by Law" - PJ: "I love this book. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal." | 242 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: feldegast on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 07:55 AM EST
So PJ can find them

The above post is (C)Copyright 2006 and released under the Creative Commons
License Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: feldegast on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 07:58 AM EST
Please make links clickable, see instructions when submitting comments

The above post is (C)Copyright 2006 and released under the Creative Commons
License Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Bound by Law" - PJ: "I love this book. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal."
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 08:25 AM EST
I read this and loved it even before you posted. This book says much of what I
wish I had said, and even more of what I wish I'd thought of.

I'm in New Zealand, where we have different, and differently worse, copyright
laws that also need reform.

But this book illuminates some issues for us as well - and will help me as I
labor on my upcoming thesis about the way content owners are responding to
disruptive technologies...

Thanks for bringing it to the attention of World + Dog.


[ Reply to This | # ]

BitTorrent Tracker
Authored by: Felix_the_Mac on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 08:32 AM EST


I have created a BitTorrent tracker for the 16MB version of the PDF file. If you
would like to link to it then drop me a mail viz. felix , oxley , org

BTW, this is my 1st attempt at creating a tracker so ... fingers crossed!

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Bound by Law"
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 09:05 AM EST
Given the title and subject matter of Groklaw thesr
comments on Enron somehow
seem apporiate.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Creative Commons license.
Authored by: kinrite on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 09:32 AM EST
I see that they have used a Creative Commons license for this work, and they
spelt out how the attribution should be carried out. I struck me that it might
be a good idea for PJ to be as specific in her CC license. It might prevent
people from misattributing her work.
Have to settle down to read the rest of the book now. It looks good at first

"Truth is like can not be created, nor destroyed"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Notice the Library?
Authored by: kattemann on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 09:59 AM EST
It contained "Melancholy Elephants" - writer Spider Robinson's story about everlasting copyrights. More about Spider on his web site.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Holy Grail of DRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 10:23 AM EST
When I read the article that PJ linked to about DRM a few days back, I can't say
that it upset me. I have this problem with reading things outside of the
context that the writer creates. It's the way my brain works; things don't fit
into a bigger picture until *I* have all the pieces, and *I* build the picture.

One of the replies to that article put it in perspective for me, and PJ's
comment about a "permissions culture" underscored that. DRM is being
marketed to everybody as their ticket on the gravy train. If, through a modicum
of talent or luck, you "create" something marketable, you will receive
a stipend, ad infinitum, according to the manifestos of a permissions culture as
realized by universal DRM. In this way, present content consortia are trying to
win support from a majority of individuals who see themselves as artists.

However, like demagogues behind every other revolution, this isn't about
changing the way power is wielded, just whose hands do that wielding. The small
players in content creation would find themselves locked into selling
(excessive) rights to whomever was buying, which would still be the same content
consortia, whose grip is now tightened by unversal, and legally mandated, DRM.

The artist, who was gushing about the exciting opportunities brought by DRM,
would go from singing, "...riding the gravy train..." to "...pray
we don't get fooled agian..."

We need to remind our congresscritters that *we* give them permission to give
*others* permission. Permissions like the guarantees of monopoly by software
patent don't translate into guarantees of any kind on the software itself. If a
software manufacturer will stand behind their product, and guarantee it, even
just "fitness of use", then maybe they deserve the privilege of a
software patent. Until then, a "product" guaranteed to do nothing, is

Geek Unorthodox

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Bound by Law" - PJ: "I love this book. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal."
Authored by: iraskygazer on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 11:07 AM EST
The comic demonstrates the fact that, due to current global trends in copyright
and intellectual property laws, being creative, no matter what field of
endeavor, can lead to stepping into a legal morass.

There is no question that creativity is being stifled by the current over
complex laws that are in effect.

I vaguely remember comments, made on Groklaw, that show that whenever a company
takes a tighter hold on their products the company is actually on a downward
slide. Are our current laws being created to protect a few older entities while
preventing the next generation from building on the past?

There is little doubt that the current laws are having an effect on creativity.
Mark Twain is a good example of somebody, Samuel, avoiding legal issues and
still being creative. And Samuel is no longer with us.

[ Reply to This | # ]

DRM and perpetual copyright
Authored by: lightsail on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 12:53 PM EST
DRM and copyright

Digital Rights Management is using software to enforce a EULA. The End User
Licensing Agreement is based on copyright, trademark, and patent law. Thus DRM
is limited by copyright, trademark, and patent law.

Several court decisions limit a copyright holder from adding restrictions beyond
those granted by copyright law. See Bauer & Cie. v. O'Donnell and Softman
v. Adobe

The legal flaw I see in DRM is that the copyright holder is granting himself a
perpetual extension of copyright by locking the copyrighted work with DRM
software. The act of misusing copyright has become a valid legal defense in
copyright infringement cases. Read the section about Lasercomb in a past article
on Groklaw:
Clearly granting yourself a perpetual extension of your copyright is not in the
spirit or letter of copyright law.

An ideal case to fight this battle is a story or movie that has been released
is with DRM that is old enough that its copyright has expired and the DRM is
still working.

Open source is in the public interest!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Your favorite IP Neanderthal.
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 01:10 PM EST
I don't think this is fair towards the real Neanderthals.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Scott McLoud makes money from writing ABOUT comics
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 01:11 PM EST
Much in the same way that you make money from writing ABOUT open source. Is
what I'm saying.

[ Reply to This | # ]

WKRP -never on DVD
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 02:03 PM EST
Some of you may remember a TV show called "WKRP in Cincinnati" from a
decades ago. As you might guess, its about a radio station and contained many
bits of music in it. About a year ago, I heard an interview with one of the
behind the show saying you will never see WKRP come out on DVD. Why?
Because renegotiating all the IP rights for the music that was playing in the
background made the whole project undoable.

I wonder how many other shows are in the same position.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Bill Hilf Newspick article thread
Authored by: rocky on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 02:51 PM EST

That was funny when I saw that line about Bill Hilf (former Linux guy at IBM) thinks Windows will retain its dominance over Linux because he says it's more reliable than Linux. Before I saw PJ's comment, I thought, "He's lost his ever-lovin mind!" I then noticed that PJ had the same epiphany.

So I've already gotten to this hilarious part, and I'm not even past the first page of the article. It's funny when he gives a specific example of a supposed strength of Microsoft products, and that's one of the specific examples where I found them to fall on their face and totally screw something up. Here's his part:

There’s a lab across the road from me that has thousands of printers so that when you have a printer in your home or office, if you get a new product from Microsoft, you have a predictable experience of that printer being able to print out of it. You’re not hoping that someone tested it in an ad hoc way but that someone put in a level of rigour and testing into that product you purchased.

I have an Apollo P-1200 printer. Apollo was rebranded HP deskjet technology(even says so right on the front of the thing). It takes the standard HP #26A black ink cartridges. So when I was running Windows 98, I used the driver on the CD that came with it. It worked great. When I upgraded to XP, I found that the driver CD didn't include a driver that worked for XP. But hey! That's no problem because XP automatically detects that there's an Apollo P-1200 printer on LPT1 and put in a driver automatically. Wow, cool, except for when I try to print anything... It puts one line of garbage at the top of the page and then spits it out into the tray. I went to the Apollo website to get their XP driver for it so I would have one that actually worked and found this disturbing notice: Microsoft already included a driver in XP so we didn't have to make one. Have fun!

Yeah, have fun, except that XP's driver is a piece of junk that doesn't work. After searching and searching in forums online, I finally found the answer. Go set up another printer on LPT1, and manually tell the computer that it's an HP Deskjet 500. That driver works perfectly, and I've been using it ever since. So thank you Bill Hilf, for pointing out that Microsoft has a large facility that is dedicated to writing a new broken driver for my Apollo printer and not testing it, instead of just doing a little testing to discover that they already have a NON-broken driver they could have used. I am so impressed now with their, as you put it, "rigour and testing" that they apparently put into every product.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Bound by Law" - PJ: "I love this book. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal."
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 03:52 PM EST
I figured a while ago that we also ship software on the back of copyright law, i.e. 'Do we have the right to sell this software' ?

However, from an engineering point of view, that is not the important thing; it is more a case of 'Are we able to provide a maintenance service for this software ?'.

Software is not there to look culturally pretty; it is there to make hardware do stuff. If there are defects --- as there always are --- thay have to be fixed.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Bound by Law" - PJ: "I love this book. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal."
Authored by: MacsEntropy on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 04:25 PM EST
Sounds wonderful. This may be off topic, but it came to mind when reading your
note. I just heard a track last night from a Pete Seeger performance at the
Newport festival in the early Sixties, which he ended with the amusing statement
"... and remember that all culture depends on plagiarism". It got a
good laugh from that audience.

Might not seem such a helpful endorsement, considering that he and his group
were blacklisted as Communists, but forgetting the McCarthy-era pall that was
cast over them, it's easier to remember that they were the heart and soul of
American folk music, which lends a real air of authority to his words...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Quila on Wednesday, March 15 2006 @ 05:15 PM EST
I'm most impressed by the very balanced, reasoned approach to the story. I don't
see how a reasonable person can read it and not come to the conclusion that
copyright as it is used today is often contrary to the clear intent of the
constitutional clause that enabled it.

I'm least impressed by them portraying Michael Moore's films as documentaries.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Bound by Law" - PJ: "I love this book. Give it to your favorite IP Neanderthal."
Authored by: blang on Thursday, March 16 2006 @ 02:38 AM EST
I can attest to the difficulty of building art on top of other art.

I used to play in an amateur concert band, and we used to have concept concerts,
such as Around the world in 80 days, A night at the movies, Famous musicals.
The most ambitious one, was a multi media project, using stills, short film
cuts, and us providing a live soundtrack. But we had to abort that one really
fast. It would have cost us an arm and a leg, and the movie theatre who was
keen on the project to begin with bailed out as well. We sold out the concert,
without any gimmicks, but it could have been so much better. In this case,
copyright protections did nothing to encourage creation of new art, as was the
original intended purpose, but everything to prevent the creation of new art. I
imagine documentary makers run into that issue all the time.

[ Reply to This | # ]

easy way to solve copy right/patent
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 16 2006 @ 02:43 AM EST
1. it must be in plain everyday english - no techno babble
2. starts off for ten years, renewal for 5 year intervals, max 25 years.
3. cannot be renewed by making small changes
4. copyright/patent holder needs to keep a good address on file, if an register
letter is sent to that address and gets returned as undeliverable, the
copyright/patent and any contained copyrights/patents become public domain and
could only be retrieved in the next 5 years

[ Reply to This | # ]

Poor protection of IP rights
Authored by: Willu on Thursday, March 16 2006 @ 06:05 AM EST

I was just reading a New York Times article on Dr Rice's visit to Australia. In that article is the following:

She went on to ... say that China had a poor record on protecting intellectual property rights....

And having just read this article and comic I thought that the US doesn't have a wonderful track record on protecting IP rights either - it is just the converse set of rights that aren't protected.

Be well,


[ Reply to This | # ]

Are they trying to pick a fight?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 16 2006 @ 08:24 AM EST
They have included rather a lot of copyrighted images, trademarks and song
lyrics. They obviously know what they are doing and I get the impression that
they would really like it if some entertainment industry lawyer tried to shake
them down for $10,000.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Bound by Law" Re-bound
Authored by: Altair_IV on Thursday, March 16 2006 @ 08:43 AM EST
For those of you who don't want to mess with html, flash, or PDF files, or who simply want a version available in an easy-to distribute package, I've taken the all the images and wrapped them up in a single .zip file.

My main reason for doing this was to create a package that can be used by any of the various comic reader programs out there (such as Comix on Linux), so I've also taken the liberty of renaming the files so that they will display in their proper order. I've made no other changes.

You can of course also simply extract the files and view them in any image viewer if you want.

Here's the link:

Bound By Law (.zip archive) (5.5MB)

(Note, this is being hosted on the space my ISP gives me. It should be pretty robust, but I don't know how much traffic it can handle. Perhaps someone could set up a torrent for it?)

Monsters from the id!!
m(_ _)m

[ Reply to This | # ]

Say, PJ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 16 2006 @ 09:25 AM EST

I think that

``... nor will it support ideas some few may have that the solution to a law you don't like is to violate it.''

may be the most political thing I've seen you post on this site. Perhaps it was unintentional or perhaps it's because I'm a bit more sensitized to a statement like that after following what's going on in the political realm lately.


[ Reply to This | # ]

No, don't use the confusing term "intellectual property"
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:06 AM EST
Hi PJ,

Of all people, I thought you would be one who has rejected the confusing notion
of "intellectual property."

For starters, "IP" is different across country borders. It is almost
as bad as the term ERP (enterprise resource planning). ERP is worse, because it
is different for different companies and even for different persons. But only
just barely.

In the US, "IP" consists of copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade
secrets. IIRC. IANAL. It's different here. It's probably different in the EU.

I don't agree with rms on all issues, but he is completely correct here. Abolish
the term "intellectual property" and use specific, well defined, terms
to convey yourself. Using "IP" will just get you confused - and I
don't think you are out to confuse others.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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