RIP Keith Aoki, copyfighting law prof, comics illustrator, musician and writer

Jamie Boyle has a sad remembrance for Keith Aoki, the legal scholar and artist who co-wrote and illustrated Bound By Law, a brilliant "Understanding Comics"-style volume about copyright and documentary filmmaking. Keith, who taught at UC Davis, died at 55, leaving behind a family and a wide circle of friends and colleagues.
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.
RIP, Keith Aoki


  1. Man, I wish I had the time to read all those referenced books. Such an interesting discussion regarding race, immigration, segregation in our culture. Just having a better understanding of these matters makes it easier to understand people and what motivates them.

  2. Issues like these and people like this are the reason I went to law school. The reality of practicing law is the reason I left law.

    Unfortunately, being a professor is one of the very narrow ways inside the field of law to get involved in these interesting issues. Fortunately it’s easier once you’re outside of law.

  3. Just drafted the call for papers for a nascent online journal I’m coediting, and he was on our shortlist of hoped-for contributors to send it to. This is incredibly saddening; he was a brilliant guy and I was looking forward to the possibility of corresponding with him. 55 is way too young.

  4. I had the pleasure of having Professor Aoki for two classes in law school. He was for sure a brilliant legal mind but also a definite pop-culture fiend, and thus the most memorable of all my professors. I will always remember the day he showed up to property class in a darth vader mask.

    Definitely missed.

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