What Lawyers Can Learn From Comic Books

from the exactly dept

Larry Lessig is at it again. He’s being brilliant, while making his point in a clear, concise way. In his latest opinion piece for the Red Herring he’s made a point that I’ve been trying to make for years, and does it many times better than I’ve ever been able to articulate it. His point is that lawyers understand law, not business – and sometimes (perhaps often) try to enforce laws even though it’s a bad decision for business. As an example, he talks about the comic industry in Japan. There’s a huge thriving industry of amateur “copycat” comics, where fans create their own comics based on popular characters. There are even huge conventions for these types of comics. In the US, the lawyers would go after these copycats for copyright infringement. Even though the laws are similar there, the publishers realize that these amateur comics help build demand for their own product. It’s a good business decision to let them stay, even if it goes against the law. Lessig suggests that management at American content companies realize that their lawyers don’t have business or economics degrees – and instead are only good at explaining the law. The managers need to make good business decisions – which might mean not enforcing the law.

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Comments on “What Lawyers Can Learn From Comic Books”

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EMC guy says:

I just touched on this in another comment...

OK lawyers if this isn’t a subject we all can hate I don’t know what is. Hey I went to law school-didn’t graduate I’m proud to say. Let me summarize for you. Now this probably applies to 70-80% of the students.

I went during the law school boom of the early 90’s. basically, you have a large group of moderate to fairly bright people who don’t know what to do with their lives. Somehow, somewhere they came to believe that law school was the answer. They began school full of life, creative, and eager “to do something important” and make a good living.
Fast forward three years- they have become competitive, narrowly focused, unimaginative and desperate to earn money to pay off these outrageous loans. So they graduate and realize- there are way too many lawyers in the US- what can I do. Well a lawyer writes laws to ensure their employment-or creates new ways to sue others for their actions. These are pretty much the only choices. Oh wait I forgot the other biggie- politics, yeah politicians are either lawyers, bought by lawyers, or advised by lawyers.

So there you have it, of course lawyers don’t understand business, economics, or technology. Few really care about the law, a lot exploit the law to benefit themselves. To expect otherwise is just foolish, overall a very sad waste of human talent.
Sorry about the rant… if I have offended any lawyers, I don’t apologize 🙂

alternatives says:

isn't more a function?

What I see is laws getting passed to PROTECT monopolies and business models.

Micky Mouse – Disney extending copywrite to protect Micky.
DMCA – the RIAA attempting to protect the business model of distribution rather than figuring out new ways to distribute.

Rather than make a product people want to buy, the law-driven firm will try to use the force of law to keep up profits.

a fan says:

fan rights

I know it may sound stupid but, instead of using the argument that being liberal on copyright helps build demand for the copyrighted product, why we just say that fans have rights in the world of fantasy just as they have rights as citizens in the real world.

or, put in a different way, movies and cartoons create parallel realities that, in a way, belongs to the people to some extent, even before rights expire in 50 years.

How would that be put in legalese form ?

Ethan B. (user link) says:

Lessig makes this point about the “doujanoushi” [sp?] in Free Culture as well. ANYONE interested in these issues needs to read Free Culture immediately. It is available for free on his website at:



p.s. this post is a perfect example of how this kind of digital word of mouth can burn through a population when the content is good.

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