Sad Loss For Those Interested In Copyright Issues (And Much More): Keith Aoki

from the rip dept

I was saddened this week to hear of the untimely passing of Keith Aoki, a brilliant and creative legal scholar on a variety of issues, including intellectual property. While I never got to know Keith, every time he was ever mentioned there was some reference to what a great person he was. James Boyle, who collaborated with Aoki on the Tales From the Public Domain comic books, has put up a very touching post as a tribute to Keith, which is well worth the read, whether you were aware of Aoki’s work or not:


Our friend, colleague, co-author and brilliant artist and scholar Keith Aoki died yesterday in his house in Sacramento.  He was 55 years old. Keith , who in addition to being an artist was  a distinguished professor at UC Davis law school, leaves behind his wife Mona and two nine year old daughters.  Also about a million friends. We are all devastated.  A fund is being set up for the benefit of his kids.  Those who wish to pledge to it should send an e-mail to me at

Keith, Jennifer Jenkins and I created Bound By Law together.  A comic about the apparently unsexy topic of copyright law and fair use, it has sold thousands of copies and has been downloaded by more than 500,000 people worldwide.    Most law professors are lucky if their work is read by a few hundred.  Keith?s artistry meant he could reach hundreds of thousands, and could teach them about law and creativity in the process.

It is hard in a few words and pictures to convey the sheer scope of Keith?s work.  Have you ever heard about so-called bio-piracy ? the taking of plant genetic resources from the developing world that are then tweaked, and layered with new intellectual property rights?  Keith wrote the book on it.  Literally.  Or did you ever wonder if aesthetics — particularly changing ideas of architecture and urban planning — had a political effect on housing patterns and segregation in American cities?  Think it would be kind of cool if someone wrote a  history of that?  Someone did.  It is called Race, Space and Place.  And it is by Keith.  Oh, and hey, it would be great if someone documented the rise of “regionalism” in US immigration politics — like the Arizonan immigration legislation.  You might want to read “Welcome to Amerizona: Immigrants Out!” Guess who wrote that. While you are at it, you could also read about critical race theory, or the distributive effects of intellectual property, or open source plant development. How about a critical  analysis of the politics of farm labor?    Try  “Pastures of Peonage?: Agricultural Concentration and Labor Migration: The Case of North America in the Early 21st Century”  Asian American electoral participation in 2008?  Keith’s got that covered too.

There’s much, much, much more in that post. Please read it. RIP, Keith Aoki.

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