Friday, 25 August 2017

Comic books could be the future of law, according to one finalist in the 2017 UWA IQ Awards .

Professor Camilla Andersen , from the UWA Law School , first experimented with using comic books as contracts in 2016 when she was approached to help engineering students understand their obligations while working for the UWA Makers.

Recognising the drawbacks of traditional written contracts, she worked with UWA’s Associate Professor Adrian Keating to draw up a contract with cartoons.

Using simple pictures and minimal dialogue, the cartoon strips illustrated the essence of nondisclosure agreements. Professor Andersen and A/Professor Keating first worked with the online cartoon tool from Pixton Comics, but now have a graphic artist (greatly!) improving their work.

The NDA agreement for the UWA Makers as recently “refurbished” by artist Loui Silvestro

Caption: The NDA agreement for the UWA Makers as recently “refurbished” by artist Loui Silvestro.

The visual contracts were well received by both students and engineering companies, leading to the use of comic contracts again this year.

Now, the concept of comic book contracts is attracting attention worldwide. Lawyers in South Africa have used comic book contracts for employment contracts and this December, the UWA Law School will host the inaugural Comic and Creative Contracts Conference,attracting speakers and experts in contract innovation form all over the world.

Professor Andersen—who originally hails from Denmark and is a multilingual multiculturalist—says comic book contracts have multiple advantages.

“When buying a product or downloading software, have you ever agreed to terms and conditions without reading them? If so, you’re not alone,” Professor Andersen says.

“End User License agreements are the biggest lie on the internet – yet another example of a contract we don’t really read, even though we KNOW we are creating a legal relationship.

“In contrast to long written contracts, comic book contracts really engage the attention of both parties. They also focus on expected behaviour rather than legal obligations, leading to fewer misunderstandings.”

This is true both for every day transactions, and amongst many different groups.

“Ensuring contracts are understandable is a big problem as most people—not just vulnerable groups—often struggle to understand how to translate complex contractual terms into expected behaviour,” Professor Andersen says.

“Equally importantly, visual contracts make the contracting process more creative – and thus innovative. I have seen companies begin to rethink how to structure a contract better, eliminate unused or unnecessary terms, and think about the psychology of contracts.

“Ultimately, creating user-friendly contracts will not only benefit individuals, but also the large organisations who rely on individuals to understand and uphold their end of contracts.”

Read more about comic book contracts in the ABC Law Report or watch Camilla’s talk on Vimeo.

Media references

Verity Chia (Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education)                                              (+61 8) 6488 1346


Business and Industry — Research
Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education — Law