Rights fight redrawn

Law profs create Akiko who champions fair use in new comicbook

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Akiko, the fair-use freedom fighter!

Akiko is heroine of a new comicbook — “Bound by Law? Tales from the Public Domain” — created by three law profs who worry that a growing “permissions culture” is hurting creativity by overprotecting it.

Hollywood should definitely be concerned, says Jennifer Jenkins, one of the authors, because “everyone at some point is on both sides of this problem. No one creates out of thin air. It’s always based on something. The book is about where you draw the line between protecting existing work and allowing new work.”

The book was prompted largely by the travails of documakers, who’ve run into demands for rights clearances even for things like a pop song briefly heard in the background as a ring tone on a cell phone.

Rather than exhort readers through lawyerly prose, the trio thought a comicbook dramatizing the issue would be more popular.

“We’re selling a lot more copies of these than we ever thought,” Jenkins says.

Or see it free — legally — at www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics.