Bound by Law?: Free Comic Book Explains How Copyright Complicates Art


Let’s say you’re a film­mak­er shoot­ing a doc­u­men­tary in New York City. You wan­der through Times Square, through muse­ums, through oth­er des­ti­na­tions, let­ting your cam­era roll along the way. Only lat­er do you won­der: Do I need to clear the copy­right on the Andy Warhol and Jack­son Pol­lock paint­ings that came into my cam­er­a’s field of view when I was shoot­ing at the MoMA? Or do I need to get clear­ance on a Miles Davis song that a busker, caught on film, hap­pened to be play­ing?

Those are the dif­fi­cult kinds of ques­tions that film­mak­ers face, and they get sort­ed out in a pret­ty unique com­ic book writ­ten by Kei­th Aoki, James Boyle and, Jen­nifer Jenk­ins. Spon­sored by Duke’s Cen­ter for the Study of the Pub­lic Domain, the com­ic is called Bound By Law? (Tales from the Pub­lic Domain). And it’s avail­able as a free PDF file (8mb — 16mb), in html for­mat, and also as a flash ani­ma­tion. There are also trans­la­tions in Por­tugueseFrench, and Ital­ian. And wait, there’s more: the com­ic comes with a Fore­word by Oscar-win­ning film­mak­er Davis Guggen­heim, and an Intro­duc­tion by Boing­Bo­ing blog­ger Cory Doc­torow, who calls Bound by Law? not just “a trea­tise on copy­right,” but also “a lov­ing trib­ute to the form of comics.”

Bound By Law? — which has been released under a Cre­ative Com­mons license — will be added to our col­lec­tion, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices. Har­vard also has a MOOC on Copy­right — one of 260 MOOCS get­ting start­ed in Jan­u­ary 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kandin­sky, Mon­dri­an, Munch & Flem­ing Entered Pub­lic Domain in 2015 — But Welles, Achebe, and “Pur­ple Peo­ple Eater” Didn’t

Down­load 15,000+ Free Gold­en Age Comics from the Dig­i­tal Com­ic Muse­um

Down­load Over 22,000 Gold­en & Sil­ver Age Com­ic Books from the Com­ic Book Plus Archive

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.