Bound by Law: Copyright Comic

This was an interesting find and very helpful. It came out of a discussion going on in a listserv that I am part of with the National Writing Project around fair use of material and the copyright law, which I find rather onerous (even as someone who writes and publishes in a variety of ways) and not at all in sync with the flexible era that we now live in.

Some professors at Duke University put together a very engaging comic explanation of how the copyright laws work, and why they are in place. Also, the short book advocates for some changes to make the fair use aspect of materials more manageable for artists in any medium (including the use of Creative Common licensing).

CSPD Comics

Cover of comic, superhero with video camera and creative commons shield

The comic unfolds around the story of a documentary filmmaker trying to determine which footage that she shot of New York City might be troublesome for her movie and along the way, the book gives very good examples of how other movies have run afoul of the copyright laws. For example, there are situations where corporations try to extort (my word) $10,000 from a young filmmaker who accidentally captures a snippet of a copyrighted song in the background of some footage. Ridiculous.

The book was published by Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain and is available for relatively cheap and it is even cheaper if you purchase class sets (four bucks a piece). More information about buying the book is here.  Or, in the spirit of this whole endeavor, you can get a free digital download of the book in any variety of styles (flash version, html, pdf, etc) by going here. They even provide a way to remix the book, if that strikes your fancy.

This comic is worth a look if you work with students still trying to get a grasp on why you can’t just take any thing in the world and remix it and put it on YouTube. Or why some songs are just off limits for some projects. And if you are like me and believe in your heart that all art (music, paintings, books, etc.) should be free and accessible to anyone (even though you acknowledge this is not reality — people want to get paid for their creative time), it is still valuable to know the law and this comic gives a great overview of the legal aspects of copyright protection.

Peace (in trademarked symbols),

  1. hey great blog, first time reader. I couldn’t agree more about copyright law. I’m no expert but I’ve spent hours and hours researching the subject so I know exactly what I can and cannot post or use in my own work. Many people don’t do this though… at all, make me wonder how many places my work might be right now? Only joking, I wish my work was good enough for people to steal.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Ed.
    This issue is a tricky one, I think, and bound to get trickier as tech makes creation and mashing up so much easier.

  3. Thanks for the link to the book. You might be interested in “Barely Legal Radio” which is a show that’s 80% about copyrights and 20% entertainment law. It’s on the radio in L.A. but it’s available as a podcast. Particularly if a person is in a band you might find the information applicable/interesting. The host is really funny too so it’s not a boring show in any case. and you can listen there. B

  4. This is a subject I explore every year with the students. I clicked over and started taking a look at the comic. It looks very thorough. I’ll have to see how it can be used. I’m also going to check out the podcast Matthew pointed to. Anything that adds to making a dry subject more palatable is great. The student’s really can’t leave my class without this information.

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