The Vegetarian at the Butchers’ Seminar

Yesterday I attended a film conference. I found myself at a talk in which filmmakers were advised how to negotiate deals.

I felt sick listening, and wondered why. Monopolies were an unquestioned, underlying assumption. When the time came for audience comments and questions, I said that rights were monopolies, that monopolies prevent the market from functioning, that distributors can be great if they’re not granted monopolies, and that it’s up to us artists to not grant those monopolies in the first place.

Naturally, the speaker wasn’t too thrilled with my comment.

If filmmakers realized monopolies don’t serve them, he’d be out of a job (he’s one of the many professionals who “help” artists

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Sita PAL

My/QuestionCopyright.org’s Sita PAL DVD is finally available at the Sita Merch Empire!

The PAL format is for European, African, Australian, and many Asian DVD players. (If you’re in North America, stick with NTSC.) Other new PAL distributions are also coming soon in France and Switzerland/Germany via Sita’s distributors in those countries. Stay tuned!

My/QuestionCopyright.org’s Sita PAL DVD is finally available at the Sita Merch Empire! The PAL format is for European, African, Australian, and many Asian DVD players. (If you’re in

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Sita water bottles?

Originally I was going to get something much cheaper, but I was just too enamored with this stupid expensive blank bottle. Now I have to decide: Which design? “Sita Namaste” or “Peacock Phonograph”?

These suckers, should I  order them, are stainless steel, BPA-free, and laser engraved. They’ll cost me about $10.50 a pop ($8.29 + $1.20 for the engraving + $50 set up charge, not including shipping), meaning they’ll sell for about $20. Crazy I know, but apparently that’s what people pay for these things.

I’m going for the 18 oz. size because it seems more convenient to stash in a bag and carry around New York on foot than the bigger bottles.

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Mimi & Eunice

Many years ago, I thought “Mimi & Eunice” would be a great name for a comic strip. Recently I’ve been needing to do some drawing just to keep my head from exploding, so this week I figured, why not Mimi & Eunice?

As far as I can tell, Mimi & Eunice are two middle-aged children/baby psychos/heterosexual lesbians. That’s all I can surmise so far. Mimi&Eunice_01I didn’t put my name on these comics, but I did tag them with the URL mimiandeunice.com. (Unfortunately that site is a mess right now. Webmaster Ian installed the comicpress theme in wordpress, but it’s squishing the strips horizontally unless I make them really tiny. Also, even though it lets me bulk upload media, it doesn’t let me bulk post.

Mimi&Eunice_02So I’m just posting a bunch of them here, for now. If anyone out there makes great comics web sites and wants to make one Mimi & Eunice, please get in touch!)

Mimi&Eunice_03Other than getting mimiandeunice.com functional and pretty, I need to decide which license to release them under, or whether to use a license at all. So far copyleft, as embodied in the Creative Commons Share Alike license,  has served my work very well. But maybe I should go for Public Domain instead?Mimi&Eunice_04

If I use a license, it’ll be one of the 3 Free licenses Creative Commons offers:

CC-BY-SA (copyleft)

CC-BY (attribution)

CC-0 (Public Domain)

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The advantage of copyleft is it ensures the work stays Free. Any derivatives must be released under the same terms, so no one can lock it up. It prevents abusive exploitation; no one can monopolize it. The drawback is that keeps it from being used in some projects that use more restrictive licenses. As nasty as restrictive licenses are, they’re still very common, and many worthy projects use them. You can still use a copyleft work within a larger copyrighted work as “Fair Use,” but few are willing to take that risk.

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CC-BY (attribution) is compatible with both copyleft and copyright projects, which could conceivably allow the works to spread further. But it still relies on the threat of legal force to ensure attribution. As I wrote recently, attribution has limits that the law might not recognize. Also, I’m intrigued by avoiding legal enforcement as much as possible, and relying on social mores and  community ethics to ensure attribution. In fact I already do this with Sita Sings the Blues, but if I want to sue someone for plagiarism or improper attribution, I can. Is that threat really necessary?

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Sometimes I think CC-0 (Public Domain) is the most spiritually advanced license. No legal claim to attribution. No legal claim to anything. To put a work in the Public Domain is to totally let it go. That is a turn-on.

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Unfortunately many useful Public Domain works are snatched right out of the Public Domain via copyrighted “derivative works”. Take the comic above. If you changed the background color on panel 3 from reddish-gray to lime green, you could say you’ve made a new work and copyright the result. I don’t mind modifications like changing colors, in fact I encourage them; but I abhor monopolies, and the thought of someone then locking up the work in this way is troubling. Certainly the source would remain in the Public Domain. But if someone else modified the source in a similar way, being likewise inspired to change the color of panel 3 to lime green, they could be sued by the jackass that copyrighted his lime-green-panel-3’ed version.

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Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is in the Public Domain, and technically you can still build on it. But if your “derivative work” too closely resembles Disney’s, they will sue your ass. The laws don’t recognize parallel evolution, nor do the tiny shriveled minds of the corporate executives who wrote them. Thus, although the exact text of Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland is PD, it’s no longer “free” to build on thanks to corporate monopolies on derivative works.

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Much as I want to let go entirely, I fear that could be socially irresponsible. Which also why using no license at all is not really an option. In our world, everything is copyrighted, whether it displays the © symbol or not, whether it’s registered or not, whether it’s attributed or not.  Everything is “owned” by someone. Therefore unless something is very clearly marked as Free, it is assumed to be Owned. No license at all would make it impossible for would-be re-users to determine whether the work is legally safe to use.

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A friend pointed out that the State gets into everything. Just because I don’t invoke repressive copy restrictions directly, doesn’t mean they don’t affect my work indirectly. Copyright affects everything, whether it’s copyrighted or not. Art is born free, but is everywhere in chains.

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Another friend pointed out that my desire to “let go” is still desire. Choosing  CC-o/Public Domain to experience the thrill of “selflessness” may actually be more selfish than choosing strong copyleft.

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I want my art to stay free. How to achieve that under our current copyright regime, is quite a dilemma.

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Forever Frunch

Every Friday, 2 pm, Soy & Sake @ 47 7th Ave S (at Commerce St) in New York’s West Village. Open to anyone who is into Free Culture, Free Software, Free Speech, Intellectual Freedom, anti-censorship, etc.

YES we do this every week. Good times!

Every Friday, 2 pm, Soy & Sake @ 47 7th Ave S (at Commerce St) in New York’s West Village. Open to anyone who is into Free Culture,

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The Limits of Attribution

I’ve updated the pedigree charts I posted a few days back.

Although I use an attribution copyleft license (CC-BY-SA), I recognize that expecting attribution for every re-use is a bit unrealistic. Sure, it’s reasonable for the first few generations: most people can name their mother and father, and many can name all 4 grandparents. But expecting them to name all 8 great-grandparents is a little much. Who knows the names of all 16 of their great-great-grandparents, or all 32 great-great-great-grandparents? And so on.

click for larger image

Likewise, I expect people to cite Sita as a source in the first few generations of remixes. I don’t think I need to legally coerce people

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Amazing, Fantastic Books

I’m dazzled by too much brilliance today. First, there’s Graham Rawle’s masterpiece Woman’s World.

It is so good. The whole thing is “written” in collaged snippets of old British women’s magazines. On top of that, the story is moving, suspenseful, and engaging from start to finish, as well as funny, deep and clever. For something that could stand on its own for being technically singular and “meta,” it packs an enormous emotional wallop.

It’s a sad comment on society that this book isn’t more widely famous. Still, I’m grateful just to have read it.

Rawle also has a blog where you can see his latest creations, including the weekly “Bright Ideas“.

No sooner had I

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