Ming the Mechanic:
What lawyers can learn from comic books

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 What lawyers can learn from comic books2003-01-10 23:59
picture by Flemming Funch

In Copy cats and robotic dogs Lawrence Lessig talks about a Japanese phenomenon that lawyers all over the world could learn from. Lessig is a U.S. law professor currently staying in Japan. The phenomenon is dojinshi, which is a type of comic book that forms a huge and growing market in Japan. But, technically speaking, it is founded on copyright 'violations'. Amateurs are copying and incorporating original art, and everybody benefits, including the original artists who experience more demand from their work. And so it is in many areas. People and companies who create something unique and useful will often benefit from all the creative uses and tweaking and copying that the customers come up with, if they're in a mind to realize it. The lawyers are often the ones who put a stick in the wheel, and make everybody lose, except for themselves.
"Lawyers (save those from Chicago) are not typically trained to think about the business consequence of their legal advice. To many, business is beneath the law. When a Sony lawyer threatened a fan of the company's Aibo robotic dog, who had posted a hack online to teach the dog to dance to jazz, he or she no doubt never thought to ask exactly how making the Aibo dog more valuable to customers could possibly harm Sony. Harm was not the issue, a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was: consumers should be banned from hacking Sony dogs, whether or not it was to Sony's benefit.

Management should begin to demand a business justification for copyright litigation. How does this legal action advance the bottom line? How will it grow markets or increase consumer demand for our products? Will calling our customers criminals increase consumer loyalty?"

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