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Ghosts and Punks: The Aesthetics of Copyright Law in Graphic Novels and Comics.

Stockton-Brown, M., 2023. Ghosts and Punks: The Aesthetics of Copyright Law in Graphic Novels and Comics. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 36, 509-527.

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s11196-022-09961-y.pdf - Published Version
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DOI: 10.1007/s11196-022-09961-y


Graphic justice and the law of aesthetics have in very recent years successfully brought law, aesthetics and comics scholarship into the same space. The culture of copyright infringement within comics (including in the Marvel, DC, and Disney universes) has been extensively in the literature by scholars including Saval. How copyright law is portrayed within the graphic novels and comics themselves is the focus (and contribution of) this article. This article will explore several comics and graphic novels, as well as included this author’s reflections of portraying copyright visually within zines for public dissemination. Throughout this article, the discourses of ghosts and spectres that are interwoven with copyright law and haunt the texts will be seen, as will the discourses of oppression and warfare that are involved for anyone seeking to make use of copyright works. As Gómez Romero and Dahlman note, comics offer “an alternative legal discourse” and we can see these alternative legal discourses through their aesthetic graphic form. This article will consider: the aesthetic portrayal of copyright law in A Gift for a Ghost and Josie and the Pussycats No. 6; as well as Bound by Law, Theft! A History of Music, and Pictures within Pictures. These comics and graphic novels have been chosen as they aesthetically portray copyright law and copyright infringement (referred to in some of the comics as “plagiarism”), and others aesthetically portray the public domain and fair use. In viewing these aesthetic manifestation of copyright law, the reader understands the limiting nature of copyright on creative freedoms, and that copyright law’s power is absolute. This article will explore the following: (i) copyright’s aesthetic portrayals and the impact of this; (ii) comics haunted by copyright law, considering A Gift for A Ghost and Josie and the Pussycats; (iii) comics about the necessity of the public domain and fair use, considering Bound by Law, Theft! A History of Music, and Pictures within Pictures; and (iv) self-reflections on portraying copyright aesthetically in publicly disseminated research zines. This article has not set out to determine that certain visual aesthetic portrayals are “correct” or “better”, but rather to explore how legal discourses and narratives about copyright law are circulated through the comics medium. These visual depictions hold considerable weight, and it is striking to see similar narratives used across a range of comics works, with different intended audiences. What is clear is that the visual depiction of copyright law enables a greater ability to convey the multiple copyright law discourses that can be felt at once, and also to highlight that some of these discourses are contradictory to one another.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Comics; Graphic novels; Copyright law; Zines; Ghosts; Copyright infringement; Legal discourses
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:37965
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:11 Jan 2023 06:24
Last Modified:13 Apr 2023 13:52


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