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April 14, 2006

Keith Aoki’s new comic book, ‘Bound by Law?’ tells all about documentary film, copyright, and fair use

There you are with your new digital camcorder, wandering the gritty neighborhoods of New York City as you shoot your latest documentary. You pan across a busy street, where a musician in a worn tuxedo sings ‘Pretty Woman’ through chapped lips.

But wait one minute. . .
Is this fair use?
Who holds the copyright on Roy Orbison’s classic song?
Can you leave it in, or will you get sued?

Go no further — University of Oregon law professor Keith Aoki’s new comic book, Bound By Law?, tells you everything you need to know about documentary film, copyright, and fair use.

Comic lovers, filmmakers, law students, and partisans of the public domain can buy the print version from the UO Bookstore for $9.95.
A variety of digital versions are available free from http://www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/digital.html

Aoki and his coauthors created their new comic book because the public domain in under siege. (And, although there are many serious texts on the subject, comic books on copyright are thin on the ground. )

Bound by Law‘s heroine Akiko, pictured on the cover as a classic Superhero, discovers that making a documentary on daily life in New York City isn’t as easy as she thinks. She is  led through the history of our copyright labyrinth and is shown what happens to recent filmmakers who refused to kow-tow to the dictates of corporate copyright holders. Akiko’s creators argue that if artists do not fight back now, it will only get worse. Akiko and the creative team show artists how they can preserve their right to Fair Use and reassert their rightful hold over the public domain.

Keith Aoki is a longtime cartoonist who loves the late 1960s comic work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko and earlier greats like Will Eisner, Chester Gould and Al Capp. He has also been influenced by the vibrant contemporary work of Robert Crumb, Scott McCloud, Art Spiegelman and Jamie Hernandez.

In the mid-1980s, Aoki decided to leave the bohemian art demimonde to go to Harvard Law School. He is now the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law at the University of Oregon School of Law, where he has taught since 1993 and specializes in the area of intellectual property.

He has published law review articles in the Stanford, California, Iowa and Boston College Law Reviews and is author of the forthcoming book Seed Wars: Cases And Materials On Intellectual Property And Plant Genetic Resources.
James Boyle is the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and one of founders of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain. He is a columnist for the Financial Times online.

Jennifer Jenkins directs Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. She was on the legal team that defended the copyright infringement suit against the publisher of the novel ’The Wind Done Gone, a parody of Gone with the Wind.”
Bound by Law? was made possible by grants from the Rockefeller and MacArthur Foundations and from Duke University.

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