Dear Apologists for Immoral and Unconstitutional Laws

Can you believe that lady? High ideals are all well and good, but she knew the rules. So unprofessional! She didn’t have to take that bus. If you don’t like the rules, don’t ride the bus. I’m an industry professional, and I give up my seat all the time – that’s what “professional” means. What if it were YOUR bus? You certainly wouldn’t want just any riff-raff riding it as they pleased. Plus if she’s so great, she should have raised $220,000 for skin-lightening cream – problem solved. Or buy her own bus! But no, she thinks she’s so special. What a whiner.

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Too bad people forget the story of Rosa Parks – but then it’s been hard to see the documentary Eyes on the Prize over the past decade, thanks to unconstitutional copyright laws.

6 comments to Dear Apologists for Immoral and Unconstitutional Laws

  • The difference between Rosa Parks’ actions and your actions if you were to distribute Sita Sings the Blues is that Rosa Parks didn’t break any laws but you would be breaking the law. In Rosa Parks’ case, the law said that “no passengers would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available” so she was within her rights as defined by law. However, a social norm had developed – “bus drivers had adopted the practice of requiring black riders to move whenever there were no white only seats left”. Rosa Parks violated the social norm, but did not break the law. Although she was found guilty of disorderly conduct, that indicates an unjust court, not a problem with the codified laws (though there were, of course, problems with the laws).

    From what I understand of the situation with Sita Sings the Blues, the law clearly states that distributing it without paying the required (and outlandish) synch fees is illegal. So you would be violating the codified law, not just violating a social norm like Rosa Parks.

    The point I’m trying to make is that you should not compare your situation with that of Rosa Parks because they are quite different. Rosa Parks violated a social norm, while you would be committing civil disobedience if you distributed Sita Sings the Blues.

    I’m not saying that the laws are right or that you should avoid civil disobedience at all costs; I’m just pointing out that Rosa Parks fought injustice through violating unjust social norms, not through violating unjust laws.

  • It is true that Parks’ specific action was refusing to leave her row in the “colored” rear of the bus as the bus became full. She wasn’t required by law to give up her “colored” seat, so not moving when the bus became crowded with whites was technically not civil disobedience.

    However her refusal to move brought national attention to the segregation of local buses, which was still legal:
    “neither the Supreme Court’s Morgan ruling nor the ICC’s Keys ruling addressed the matter of Jim Crow travel within the individual states.” (link)

    So it was legal to have “colored” sections in the backs of buses, and require “coloreds” to sit in them, even in an uncrowded bus. In the popular imagination, Parks is remembered as “sitting in the front of the bus.” She is thought of as a civil dissident. But you are right, her greatest act remembered as civil disobedience, technically wasn’t. She did get arrested for it though.

    I am unlikely to be arrested for my civil disobedience, which is another important difference. In fact I am likely to work out a deal with the corporations. But I still hope to draw attention to the unjustness, immorality and unconstitutionality of what copyright law has become. Just because my film might get through, doesn’t make it OK that the laws are this hostile to art in general. I’m not the only poor filmmaker out there who should be making art instead of dealing with this crap.

  • js

    It’s silly to argue that the difference between Rosa Parks and Nina Paley is that Parks didn’t break the law; Parks was found guilty of disturbing the peace.

  • Heh. And just so’s ya knows, the above post is a metaphor:

    1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”

    I am not literally Rosa Parks; there are innumerable differences between my situation and Rosa Parks'; these differences do not change my argument as illustrated by the metaphor, above.

    Another metaphor is in the phrase Intellectual Property, which applies the not-literally-applicable term property to culture. Some definitions of property:

    2. goods, land, etc., considered as possessions: The corporation is a means for the common ownership of property.
    3. a piece of land or real estate: property on Main Street.

    Intellectual Property isn’t real estate, but people are so confused by the metaphor they apply the same laws!

    Let October be Metaphor Awareness Month.

  • Being found guilty of disturbing the peace does not mean Rosa Parks broke the law. As I mentioned, the court was unjust – they found Parks guilty out of spite, not because she actually broke a law.

    My comment may seem nitpicky, but for me there is a big difference between breaking social norms and civil disobedience. I don’t believe a person in any society should be under an obligation to keep social norms. But I do believe that a person should only commit civil disobedience in the most extreme of circumstances. So for me, there is a big difference between the two.

    If you don’t hold the same view, that’s fine; I just want to clarify why I commented for those who are wondering.

  • “My comment may seem nitpicky”… Gee I don’t think I’d use that word. I think “bullshit” is much, much more accurate.

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