Shop now Shop now Shop now Up to 50% off Fashion Prime Photos Learn More Shop now Fireworks GNO Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Bundle for Kids Listen in Prime Shop Now Shop now
Currently unavailable.
We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Bound by Law: Tales from the Public Domain: By Day a Filmmaker, by Night She Fought for Fair Use! Paperback – 19 Mar 2007

1 customer review

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Paperback, 19 Mar 2007
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.
Customers also viewed these available items

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Save £20 on with the aqua Classic card. Get an initial credit line of £250-£1,200 and build your credit rating. Representative 32.9% APR (variable). Subject to term and conditions. Learn more.

No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet and computer.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.

Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press (19 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933368373
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933368375
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,795,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description


"This wonderful, funny, and clever comic makes a very complex issue simple... I keep a copy in my desk." Davis Guggenheim, Oscar-winning director of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth "An indispensable guide for the perplexed (ain't we all!) in this postmodern information age." Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning comic book artist "A knockout comic book about fair use and filmmaking. Bound by Law? riffs expertly on classic comic styles, from the Crypt Keeper to Mad Magazine, superheroes to Understanding Comics, and lays out a sparkling, witty, moving and informative story about how the eroded public domain has made documentary filmmaking into a minefield." Cory Doctorow, co-editor of the blog "Bound by Law? stars Akiko, a curvaceous, muscular filmmaker (think Tomb Raider's Lara Croft with spiky hair) planning to shoot a documentary about a day in the life of New York City... [It] 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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Keith Aoki is a longtime cartoonist and Professor of Law of the University of California, Davis, School of Law. He is the author of "Seed Wars: Controversies and Cases on Plant Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property" (forthcoming).James Boyle is the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke University Law School, a founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, and the author of "Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See the customer review
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. D. Welsh TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This little cartoon book (sorry, graphic law textbook) is a lot of fun, and succeeds in breaking the ice of a big and scary topic - intellectual property (IP) law. Be warned that it doesn't take you awfully far, and also that it's very much from the point of view of an independent documentary film maker. (Nothing wrong with that, of course, and it's a field that does involve quite a few different aspects of IP law). And, inevitably, it addresses US law - other nations may do things differently. The content is presumably rock-solid, as one of the co-authors is James Boyle, author of books such as Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society - Cases & Materials: An Open Casebook: 2014 Edition and The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. He is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and the former Chairman of the Board of Creative Commons. (Disclosure: I copied that last sentence from the Amazon blurb - I hope that's OK with law enforcement).

As well as making you smile, the book's main role is to make you aware of the appalling range of ways in which you can break the law by singing "Happy Birthday" with your friends, and such other ghastly breaches of intellectual property rights. Oh, and there's an introduction by Cory Doctorow!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Graphic novel is perfect vehicle for exploring copyright issues 3 May 2006
By book addict - Published on
Format: Paperback
It seems appropriate that the first image you see when you open this work is reminiscent of the Crypt Keeper. After all, the topic is something most people fear -- law. In fact, the specific area, copyright law, even causes the knees of some lawyers to quake.

Bound by Law? is a comic book (or graphic novel if you prefer) issued by the <a target="_blank" href="[...]">Center for the Study of the Public Domain</a> at Duke Law School. It seeks to explain to the layperson two of the thornier issues in modern copyright law for writers, musicians, artists and filmmakers.

Basically, the work (written by James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins and illustrated by Keith Aoki) uses a documentary filmmaker to examine the impact of the doctrines of "public domain" and "fair use." The public domain is comprised of material on which copyright never existed or has expired and, hence, can be freely used by the public at large. Fair use is a statutory exception to the copyright laws that allows use of portions of copyrighted material for a variety of purposes as long as the use doesn't exceed the boundaries of a four-factor test the law establishes.

Why a comic book and a focus on documentary filmmaking? Because they are excellent vehicles for exploring the issues.

The work's filmmaker wants to make a documentary of the day in the life of New York City. She encounters what anyone would, albeit perhaps to a greater degree. Almost everywhere she goes there is copyrighted or trademarked material: music on the street or in a nightclub; a program or movie on the television in a particular room; or the logos that are ubiquitous at almost any sporting event. To figure out if she can use any or all of these materials without being sued for copyright infringement, she needs to sort out whether the material is protected or in the public domain. If it is protected, does her use constitute fair use?

Similarly, a comic book graphically demonstrates the seemingly endless circles and mazes in which an artist or writer can be led trying to sort out these questions. Bound by Law? also frequently relies on a montage or mix approach that displays how material which may or may not be in the public domain or may or may not be copyrighted plays a role in the expression of ideas. The latter is used to particular effect. As might be expected from strong advocates of the fair use doctrine, the book is replete with undoubtedly copyrighted and trademarked images, logos and symbols. Thus, the comic book not only illustrates but makes a point far better than a traditional written work.

The problem today is at least two-fold. First, Congress has repeatedly changed and extended the length of time before copyrighted work falls into the public domain. These actions have effectively resulted in most of 20th Century culture being protected for almost 100 years. Likewise, much of the material published today likely will be protected into the 22nd Century.

The problem with fair use stems not only from a lack of clear rules but also the fact some copyright holders have taken a very tough -- some might say extortionate -- stance. Bound by Law points out a variety situations in which works had to be cut or modified because of the money the copyright holder demanded in exchange for using a few seconds or snippet of their material.

Bound by Law? brings these complex issues across is a simple, enjoyable style. Not only does it show the firsthand impact of the problems, it also educates about a variety of relevant court decisions. It is also a commentary on trying to make intellectual property law a benefit rather than a hindrance to modern creative work. Some of its references in this regard are subtle, others more straightforward.

The former is seen from the outset. In the very first panel, the book quietly acknowledges the contributions of Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor in the forefront of arguing that intellectual property laws are hindering creative freedom and technology. Lessig isn't mentioned in the panel. Rather, the titles of several of his books appear on a bookshelf, together with the titles of other works exploring how copyright fits with new media and new technology. Lessig makes a later cameo appearance as the Statute of Liberty, holding a video camera as his torch and a copy of his most recent work in lieu of a tablet in the left hand.

More explicit is a closing discussion of "cultural environmentalism" as an approach for a future copyright system. Initially proposed by Boyle a decade ago, the theory is that just as the environmental movement demonstrated the impact social and policy decisions had on the environment, cultural environmentalists should show the public how intellectual property laws affect culture. The idea has taken root among a wide number of individuals (including Lessig) who continue to examine how to strike a balance between protecting intellectual property and encouraging creativity in an increasingly remixed culture.

Bound by Law? won't qualify anyone for membership in any professional organizations dedicated to intellectual property law. In fact, carrying it might alone be sufficient to keep a person out of some of those groups. But the aim isn't to make readers intellectual property experts. Rather, the goal is to educate artists and the public about current issues and provide commentary by those who believe copyright law must be fixed to remain a useful tool in a digital world. And a comic book is a far more enjoyable way to learn this than a case book or law review article.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Far more fun and to the point than the BSA's ferret 19 Mar. 2006
By Diavolo Incarnato - Published on
Format: Paperback
In August 2004, the BSA launched an "educational" campaign, "Play it safe in cyberspace". It comprised a comics whose hero, Copyright Crusader, was an ugly grabbing sanctimonious ferret. This animal version of Mackie Knife can still be seen in <a href="[...]">Ferreting out copyright scofflaws</a> by David Becker (, 08/10/2004).

"Bound By Law" is far more fun, and far more informative. For instance, the authors do not only make their characters talk about fair use and parody, but they use parodies themselves, as Cory Doctorow points out in his review, <a href="[...]">Comic book brilliantly explains copyright for documentary filmmakers</a> in Boing Boing (02/03/06).

More information - and a link to the online version - in <a href="[...]">the comics page</a> of Duke Law.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A "Toon" take on Fair Use 8 Aug. 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading law is dry. Reading graphic novels is fun. Aoki, Boyle, and Jenkins have created the ultimate legal graphic novel. In about 53 pages they have illustrated to me everything I wanted to know about Fair Use of materials in the Public Domain and of copyright laws. As a videographer, I am now more educated, yet more wary of what I can and cannot use when shooting. At first, I read the whole book on line, then I realized that the information in it was too valuable not to have as a hard copy. And my bonus is that I can color the pages as I see fit while learning the law!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Need to Know 6 July 2007
By K. A. Piccolo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very insightful and informative, and a must for any artist in any facet of the industry. To know what the law actually says regarding copyrights and fair usage is key to being a successful commercial artist.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Copyright 101 in Plain English 27 Dec. 2010
By Brian Rowe - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazing intro text to copyright. I recommend it to clients and students. This graphic novel takes the basics of copyright and explains them in simple terms. The format is ideal for teaching copyright as it enables visual examples that do not translate well to word only text. The book is also very accurate from a legal perspective. One of the advantages of this book in a class room setting is it is also down-loadable for free from Duke website. The creative commons license makes it accessible to a larger audience.

PS there is a new updated version (2008) that is basically the same. The newer version has a great intro by Cory Doctorow but is not a significant improvement for double the price.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know