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Intellectual Property Rights as seen in a graphic novel

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 02, 2011 06:32 AM
While most engagements with the issue of Intellectual Property Rights take the form of academic papers and scholarly articles, the Centre for Internet and Society is approaching the subject through another medium – an online graphic novel. Commissioned by the organisation, and conceived, written and drawn by Mumbai-based Anand Ramachandran (a man who keeps himself busy in a number of ways, from writing satire columns to developing videogame designs), the novel, titled Learning to Floo, is being serialised on the CIS website.

“People are aware of the implications of IPR issues when it comes to movies and music,” said Ramachandran, over the phone from Mumbai. “Less so when it comes to patents and medicines. We’re trying to throw light on some of these issues through the comic.” One attraction of dealing with the subject through a story is that it becomes possible to avoid proselytising. “We’re telling a story, not taking a moral stand,” said Ramachandran.

The premise – an India many centuries in the future. IPR laws have slowly become so restrictive that people can’t even hum a popular tune without first paying a license fee. As a result creativity and originality have been strangled, and people’s brains have turned to mush. A band of rebels holds out, including an individual named Teech who, as the story opens, is in prison awaiting execution. Unknown to him and his cohorts, the government actually needs them because, as pirates, they have access to knowledge that has been lost to the rest of mankind. A prison break sets the story off at a cracking pace.

Ramachandran uses Celtx to write his scripts, and Xara Xtreme and the GIMP pencil and airbrush tool for the illustrations – all free software, he pointed out. The art is minimalist, with one or two facial features defining each character (Teech himself has no facial features), and the story is sped along by snappy dialogue and smooth storyboarding. CIS also has plans to produce a print version of the comic once it is complete. Ajay Krishnan

ASPI-CIS Partnership


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