How unauthorised copies can help

Lawrence Lessig: What lawyers can learn from comic books (via Mark Pilgrim). An assessment of the vast Japanese “dojinshi” industry, which consists of ordinary people drawing their own manga comics featuring the published characters. Essentially, this is fanfic, but in comic form. It’s huge in Japan. Lessig cites an article by law professor Salil Mehra which discusses how dojinshi, while illegal under copyright law, is left alone — even encouraged — by the original manga artists because it contributes to and increases the popularity of their work. A violation of copyright isn’t always a bad thing, and unilaterally condemning all such violations is blinkered; a kneejerk lawyerly reaction to a misperceived evil. As Lessig says, “lawyers look at copyrights as if they were ends in themselves…the law should therefore stop such violations [of said copyright] wherever it can”, which is missing the point. Lessig’s solution is that “management should begin to demand a business justification for copyright litigation”, and he’s not wrong. I wish more big businesses could see past their lawyers’ kneejerks and get back to the stringent business cases, the justifications of spend, that applies to everything else they do to keep their business profitable. ——-

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