August 25, 2003  ·  Lessig

Tony Auth is a favorite cartoonist of mine. In 1981, he drew a cartoon in response to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in the Sony v. Universal case (the Betamax case). In that case, the Court of Appeals had held that the VCR was an infringing technology. Auth’s cartoon captured the silliness of this perfectly: In a single frame, there was a VCR and a handgun, and the caption read (something like) “Which of these is illegal in California?”

I’m trying to clear permissions to use this cartoon. The people who handle Auth’s rights can’t locate the cartoon I’m speaking of. Does anyone have a memory of seeing this somewhere?

  • Leah Guildenstern

    The answer to the cartoon: both
    Which SHOULD be: none

  • Brian

    Here I go on a rant again, kinda on the topic of the constitution. Is it just me or this whole Alabama thing just nuts? Now I am not looking for a holy war but I think the 10 commandments have about as much place in the halls of justice as the koran. While I am on the subject why havent we reversed what happened in the 50′s to our money? Why doesn’t our money have the original saying of “E Pluribus Unum” instead of “In God We Trust”. I would think those words would upset anyone who isnt Christian? Again, we live in a crazy crazy world.

  • Evan

    It’s off topic, but I’m gonna join in anyway: Do you suppose all those people who argue that the ten commandments are fundamental to our whole system of justice could even recite *five* of the commandments? ‘Cause I’m really not seeing how our system of justice depends on us not taking the Lord’s name in vain, or working on the sabbath, or coveting our neighbors’ livestock. Perhaps the good professor can clarify this point for us.

    As to the Auth cartoon: Are you sure it was he?

  • Karl

    Re: the 10 commandments. It’s a state’s rights issue. The inflated concept of Equal protection is butting its nose where it doesn’t belong, once again. The 1st Amendment does not preclude state laws regarding religion, nor did the Framer’s intend it to. The Virginia Constitutional prohibition of blasphemy is proof enough of that.


  • Brian

    Karl: What about the 14th amendment (Section 1) which says the entire Bill of Rights applies to the states. Which in this case I think the Alabama Judge is voilating the 1st Amendment, in a sense isnt he making a law that condones a certain religion?

  • Brian

    Karl: I understand your point. I guess I would ask aren’t we first citizens of the USA and then citzens of the states? At what point can a state infringe on my federal rights as a citizen of the USA? I bring up a question of segregation. If this would be allowed to stand, why then could they not have a sign that says “Whites only”? I would feel uncomfortable if I were ever to come up for a legal battle in Alabama with that present on the way in. What if I don’t believe in what it says? Wouldn’t that be intimidating to someone who didn’t believe that?

  • Karl

    You’re absolutely right. I believe this debate highlights a major shortcoming of the underlying structure of our system. We began as citizens of states, but those states formed a union. We were told that we could serve two masters, equally, but the citizenry has, more-or-less, split. We push for power to be centralized in one of the other. More recently, we’ve been told that we are also citizens of a global community, and now we have a third master.

    The question as to what issues are so integral to existance that they must be regulated on a national (or global) basis is a difficult question, but I think that a general rule that was held by the framers has been trampled on, and that is that when it doubt power is differed to the states, and the people.


  • Karl

    Out of respect for Professor Lessig, and his right to use this space to further discussion of the aims of his choosing I’m going to have to cut my off-topic comments at that. Feel free to e-mail me, if you want. I might use my new editorship over at Watchblog to discuss this issue if I get time.


  • Brian

    I agree Karl, I appologize Mr. Lessig. I don’t blog a lot and figured this would be a plausible topic for a Stanford Law professor’s blog but again as I go off topic I conceed to a better forum.

  • Romberry

    On the 10 commandments issue above., the Alabama constitution itself is pretty clear on the issue of church and state. Justice Moore would do well to read it.

    The relevant section is here


    Religious freedom.

    That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

  • Alan Griffith

    Mr Lessig,

    The cartoon you are asking about certainly makes a humorous comparison, dispite in my mind being wrongheaded. Yes, I am a card carrying NRA member. I’m also a fan of your work for I find your ideas useful in areas including intellectual property and beyond. The end to end concept you promote also seems to translate well to the right to bare arms. Allowing the network or in this case the government to control all the guns inherently restricts those who would use them responsibly. Too often gun control dialog centers on the idea of keeping guns out of the hands of evildoers. Unfortunately, it is much easier to take guns away from law abiding citizens instead of those who have a blatent disregard for law and human life. In contrast promotion of the right to bare arms and responsible use empowers and encourages individuals to defend themselves and others. On the Internet, the power endusers who share their knowledge are the unsung heroes. Likewise a grandfather who teaches his grandson about appropriate gun usage is the type of person who makes this nation great.


  • Adam Shostack

    Do you have a copy that you’ve clipped, and are now trying to clear it, or are you trying to find it? How far does your duty extend in trying to clear the cartoon? It seems to me that you’ve done the reasonable thing, and should now just use the cartoon. “Auth v. Lessig” has a certain ring to it as an important copyright case, don’t you think? And the right to use material that’s hard to clear could become a part of fair use.

  • Josh Cogliati

    If you can’t find the cartoon, it might just be easier to find somebody to redraw it.

  • Heath

    Universal Press Syndicate can’t track down the cartoon? Have you — or they — contacted Tony Auth himself? I’m sure you’ve already seen these:

    Rights and restrictions information —

    Auth’s email at the Philadelphia Inquirer –

    Hope that helps.

  • lessig

    None of his “rights” people are able to locate it. I’ve written to him directly. (How cool to have an excuse to write Tony Auth.)

  • Dave

    I’ve spent a good while looking for this. It seems as though the pre-1997 comics (when he joined Universal comics) are pretty scarce on the web. If someone finds it, consider me impressed.

    The one bit of advice that I do have is that if you remember what the comic looked like (not what it depicted, but the printing) and which newspapers you were reading in college, a visit to your library may unearth the microfiche in question. Hopefully you have a student who needs research credit :)

    The other option in the library are compilations of political cartoons. I know there is at least one series entitled Best Political Cartoons of $year. Chances are this one is in the 1981 edition if there is one.

    As they say, lots of luck.

  • adamsj

    And that brings me to a point I thought about making earlier–have you looked at the reverse of the clipped cartoon? What’s on it–anything useful?

  • Anonymous

    To drag this back to the original issue a bit, I thought that the Court of Appeals in Sony got it right – copying the entire body of a work to use it for the same purpose as the author published it for, is infringement, not fair use. It makes fair use very hard to understand to say otherwise. The proper response to the undesirable consequences of this was legislation – there were a ton of bills in Congress waiting for the Supreme Court (or not) to amend copyright law to allow home taping, and I have no problem with that solution. Certainly the last 20 years have shown that the copyright owners have benefited from the copying – but that doesn’t make the Supremes’ read of fair use in that case right, it just shows the legislation needed amendment to reflect the new technology.

    THe cartoon that Professor Lessig mentions sounds familiar but I have no line on a source. Good luck.


  • lessig

    John, I don’t read the Supreme Court as doubting that there were lots of uses of the VCR that would have been copyright infringements. The point of the opinion was that there was at least a “potential” for substantial non-infringing uses. That meant that the technology could not be regulated, even if the particular illegal uses could. Given that, the Court clearly indicated that it was a matter for Congress to resolve. Congress chose not to, wisely, imho. And its choice reveals something we should all recognize: that copyright law is not, nor has it ever been, a zero-tolerance law.

  • Brian

    I think the way to get this information is to set a price at Google Answers. Someone there will find it for you. I’m amazed reading the answers some of these people come up with. They can find almost anything…

  • Pat

    The Philadelphia Inquirer has an archive search for $2.95 that goes back to 1978. I’m not sure if it includes the political cartoons. Auth was a Philly boy, and I looked for his cartoons every day in the Inquirer.

  • Jason

    Hmm. Once I make a cartoon of you, I’ll track that down! Unfortunately, I don’t know where the one you’re looking for is from, however….