A talk I recently gave at TEDx in Maastricht, NL.
Which picture best depicts Copyright? Vote in comments.
I’ll be asking this question tonight at this talk:
Head on over here between 2 and 4pm EST today, Friday February 27.
UPDATE: Reddit is not allowing me to post. On my own IAMA. Granted, this IAMA was set up by someone else, who said he had duly submitted my handle (Nina_Paley, created a week ago) to the mods. But it didn’t work. I was on the calendar, but I can’t respond to questions. I am not happy about this but mods aren’t responding, so I give up. You can AMA on Twitter instead.
UPDATE 2: after half an hour the problem was corrected, and I went back and answered questions.
Music is from “Frogs” by DJ Zeph featuring Azeem, from the album “Sunset Scavenger.” It’s from 2004, making it the most contemporary song in the film. I almost used Taylor Swift’s 2014 “Bad Blood” for Blood, but I ended up deciding Josh White’s 1933 “Blood Red River Blues” was simply a better song. It wasn’t due to fear of lawsuits; I decided long ago not to allow copyright to determine my artistic choices. If you don’t know my stance on Intellectual Disobedience, you can learn about it here:
I’m curious what frogs DJ Zeph and Azeem were originally referring to. Here, of course, the frogs are these:
“3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:
“4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.” -Exodus 8, King James Version
A friend of mine told me she’s dating a guy who works in trains, and among other things can actually drive a train. Naturally I wanted to show her the Casey Jones comic I made for Grateful Dead Comix in 1991, but I couldn’t find it anywhere online. I couldn’t even find it on my own hard drives – apparently I’d never even scanned it. Probably because everyone who worked on Grateful Dead Comix did it as work-for-hire. Well I don’t play that no more, so here for your (and my friend’s) edification and enjoyment are all 8 pages of Casey Jones. The Dead will have to censor this themselves, since I’m not doing it for them.
I’ve never had any problem with Next New Networks. I like its founder Fred Siebert. Since I believe the folks at Next New Networks are cool, maybe they could assist with a “teaching moment” and figure out where along the chain of bureaucracy this happened. It would be helpful and enlightening for many to see just how easy it is to make a false copyright claim in YouTube’s hair-trigger content ID system.
Since Sita Sings the Blues is now CC-0 “Public Domain”, I can’t go legal over things like this, nor do I want to. I do wonder what happens with fraudulent claims over other Public Domain material. Do different entities just randomly claim PD works and then duke it out with each other? If PD material can be claimed by big corporations, that will exclude small players from using it because they don’t have the resources to challenge said false claims. But don’t get me started.
Update: Mike Schmitt, who took the screenshot at top, says,
Below are the images and text of a Pecha Kucha talk I gave in Champaign, IL. The Pecha Kucha format is 20 slides x 20 seconds per slide.
You are an information portal. Information enters through your senses, like your ears and eyes, and exits through your expressions, like your voice, your drawing, your writing, and your movements.
In order for culture to stay alive, we have to be open, or permeable. According to Wikipedia, Permeance is “the degree to which a material admits a flow of matter or energy.” We are the material through which information flows.
It’s through this flow that culture stays alive and we stay connected to each other. Ideas flow in, and they flow out, of each of us. Ideas change a little as they go along; this is known as evolution, progress, or innovation.
But thanks to Copyright, we live in a world where some information goes in, but cannot legally come out.
In our Copyright regime, “trouble” may include lawsuits, huge fines, and even jail. “Trouble” means violence. “Trouble” has shut down many a creative enterprise. So the threat of “trouble” dictates our choices about what we express.
Copyright activates our internal censors. Internal censorship is the enemy of creativity; it halts expression before it can begin. The question, “am I allowed to use this?” indicates the asker has surrendered internal authority to lawyers, legislators, and corporations.
This phenomenon is called Permission Culture. Whenever we censor our expression, we close a little more and information flows a little less. The less information flows, the more it stagnates. This is known as chilling effects.
I have asked myself: did I ever consent to letting “Permission Culture” into my brain? Why am I complying with censorship? How much choice do I really have about what information goes in and comes out of me?
The answer is: I have some choice regarding what I expose myself to, and what I express, but not total control. I can choose whether to watch mainstream media, for example. And I can choose what information to pass along.
But to be in the world, and to be open, means all kinds of things can and do get in that are beyond my control. I don’t get to choose what goes in based on its copyright status. In fact proprietary images and sounds are the most aggressively rammed into our heads. For example:
“Have a holly jolly Christmas, It’s the best time of the year
I hate Christmas music. But because I live in the U.S., and need to leave the house even in the months of November and December, I can’t NOT hear it. It goes right through my earholes and into my brain, where it plays over and over ad nauseum.
Here are some of the corporations I could “get in trouble with” for sharing that song and clip in public. I wasn’t consulted by them before having their so-called “intellectual property” blasted into my head as a child, so I didn’t ask their permission to put it in my slide show.
Copyright is automatic and there’s no way to opt out. But you can add a license granting some of the permissions copyright automatically takes away. Creative Commons, the most widespread brand of license, allows its users to lift various restrictions of copyright one at a time.
The problem with licenses is that they’re based on copyright law. The same threat of violence behind copyright is behind alternative licenses too. Licenses actually reinforce the mechanism of copyright. Everyone still needs to seek permission – it’s just that they get it a little more often.
Like copyright itself, licenses are often too complex for most people to understand. So licenses have the unfortunate effect of encouraging people to pay even MORE attention to copyright, which gives even more authority to that inner censor. And who let that censor into our heads in the first place?
Although I use Free licenses and would appreciate meaningful copyright reform, licenses and laws aren’t the solution. The solution is more and more people just ignoring copyright altogether. I want to be one of those people.
A few years ago I declared sovereignty over my own head. Freedom of Speech begins at home. Censorship and “trouble” still exist outside my head, and that’s where they’ll stay – OUTSIDE my head. I’m not going to assist bad laws and media corporations by setting up an outpost for them in my own mind.
I no longer favor or reject works based on their copyright status. Ideas aren’t good or bad because of what licenses people slap on them. I just relate to the ideas themselves now, not the laws surrounding them. And I try to express myself the same way.
Like millions of others who don’t give a rat’s ass about copyright, I hope you join me. Make Art, Not Law.
Your machines are amazing. There is so much I could do with one! I could render a vector-based animated movie, convert each frame into a simple embroidery file, and sew out a frame at a time as a quilt. It would be amazing. I want to do that so much! And your domestic embroidery machines could do it. They are reasonably priced – a few thousand dollars is quite reasonable for a machine that can do that, and many are priced even lower. Such potential! The artist in me is drooling.
But the software. For some reason you sell software for insanely high prices. All I need is software that converts common vector formats (like .eps or .ai) to an embroidery file, and allows me to size it to fit your hoops, and get it into your machine.
To do that would cost me a minimum of $900*. And is Windoze only. Brother’s PE Design NEXT (which is the minimal “level” of software I’d need for my simple vector-to-stitches conversion) appears to cost about $1,000. But I’m not sure – Brother’s web site doesn’t say, and they don’t offer it for sale online, only through “dealers.”
I understand it costs money to develop software for your machines. It also costs money to develop the machines. That’s why you sell the machines. Here’s a tip: The more useful your machines are, the more you will sell! Under the current regime of ridiculous embroidery software prices, you are selling fewer machines. I am not buying your potentially amazing machines because of the software issue. And I really really want an embroidery machine and would be happy to pay many thousands of dollars for one. I’m a ready and eager customer! But no sale.
I would buy one if I could design my own stuff for it.
Imagine a sewing machine that shipped with a limited set of licensed Disney® dress patterns, with a few more online you could download for $5 to $20 each. But sewing your own dress pattern would require expensive proprietary software, closed-source of course so it can’t be improved or debugged or customized. Or how about a sewing machine that uses only proprietary fabric? Which the sewing machine company has a monopoly on, so they sell it for $500 a yard? Sewing machines are popular and diverse because fabric is inexpensive, widely available, and can be used in any machine. The cheaper fabric is, the more sewing machines sell. Expensive proprietary fabric would mean fewer machines would sell. But that is exactly the idiotic business model embroidery machine makers have locked themselves into.
Sewing machines are great because you can sew anything with them. Computers are great because you can make anything with them. Computers+automated embroidery machines would be great if you could embroider anything with them, but you can’t. Embroidery software for my Mac is $2,299!
Let me repeat: functional, accessible software makes your machines more valuable. Expensive, restricted software makes them useless. Which is a pity because they have so much potential.
*P.S. Yes I know there is Embird, which would “only” cost me $309 ($164 basic module + $145 font engine, to convert vector files) to be minimally useful for me (maybe – I can’t even be sure of that). Plus the cost of a PC (which isn’t actually that much because PC manufacturers, unlike embroidery machine manufacturers, know the value of their product increases the more useful it is, and so they encourage lots of software and even support Free Software so they sell lots of PCs, thus driving the price down further even while their manufacturers’ profits increase – think about that!) But Embird only converts EMF, WMF and CMX vector formats, so I’d need yet another program to convert a .eps sequence (or .ai or .swf) first.
There is also this Free svg-to-pcs (Pfaff) converter which I tried with this pcs-to-pes converter a few times and it didn’t work. And also doesn’t have stitch editing or further control. But it is promising.
Even the mighty Linus Torvalds knows about the embroidery software problem, but it’s still not fixed.
Crossposted from Questioncopyright.org
QCO Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley’s interview with at Baixa Cultura, conducted by email with journalist and photographer André Solnik. The English below is the original; Baixa Cultura translated Nina’s answers.
1. When your interest on free culture has begun?
For a long time I thought copyright terms were too long and the law could use reform, but I didn’t really understand Free Culture until October 2008, after months on the film festival circuit with my then-illegal feature Sita Sings the Blues. Free Culture was too audacious a concept for me to think about clearly until then. One morning I finally got it — freeing my work would be better for the work — and I spent the next half-year preparing for a Free, legal release of SSTB. That finally happened in March 2009, when I finally cleared all the necessary (and bullshit) licenses at a cost of about $70,000 to myself.
2. Tell me in short why artists should free their work. Is it a good choice for both renowned and new artists?
From my article How To Free Your Work:
Why should you Free your work? To make it as easy as possible for people to share your work — as easy as possible for your work to reach eyeballs and ears and minds — to reach an audience. And to make it as easy as possible for audience support — including money — to reach you…. Copy restrictionsplace a barrier between you, the artist, and most forms of support. By removing the barriers of copyright, you make it possible to receive money and other kinds of support from your audience, both directly and through distributors, thereby increasing your chances of success.
3. Creative Commons has recently released the final draft of the version 4.0 of its licenses. What changes would you like to see? Do you think CC should keep on supporting the nonfree licenses?
Yes, CC should stop supporting the non-free licenses. What kind of “commons” is that?
4. Although they are probably the most known alternatives to more restrictive ones, they still remain unpopular compared to the “all rights reserved“. Why is that? Do you reckon people get confused by the many possibilities given by the CC licenses?
Most people who use CC licenses don’t understand what the different licenses mean; they just call all of them “Creative Commons” as if that means anything. CC’s modular system was a good idea, I see it as an experiment that was worth doing. But the results are in: it didn’t work. What we have now are a mess of incompatible licenses, most of which fail to contribute to any real “commons,” and an increase of confusion and misinformation.
You can’t really blame Creative Commons though — the problem is copyright law. Nothing can fix it at this point. Even CC-0, a valorous attempt to opt out of copyright, doesn’t work in practice, as my experience with the Film Board of Canada showed — even after placing SSTB under CC-0, their lawyers refused to accept it was really Public Domain, and made me sign a release anyway, just to allow one of their filmmakers to refer to it. I will be saddled forever with permissions paperwork even with CC-0. I’ll probably keep using CC-0, of course, but I have no expectation it will work as it’s supposed to.
5. The BY-NC-SA license, although nonfree, it’s pretty popular. Why do you think so? What are the main issues about licensing a work using it?
People are high-minded when they choose the -NC restriction, but it accomplishes exactly the opposite of their ideals. They want to “protect” their works from abusive exploitation from big corporate players. They don’t realize those big corporate players LOVE the -NC clause, because it’s a commercial monopoly. Big corporate players are all set up to deal with commercial monopolies: they have licensing departments and lawyers. It’s the big corporate players who can afford to license your -NC works. It’s your peers, small players with no legal departments and limited resources, who can’t. The -NC clause screws over your fellow artists and small players, while favoring big corporations.
The way to avoid abusive exploitation is to use CC-BY-SA, a Share-Alike license without the -NC restriction. This allows your peers to use the work without fear, as long as they keep it Free-as-in-Freedom. Big corporate monopoly players, however, are unwilling to release anything Freely: if they want to use your work, they’ll have to negotiate a waiver of the -SA clause. For this they will pay money. It works like a regular licensing deal: for $X you waive the -SA restriction and allow them to re-use the work without contributing to the community. I have had many corporate licensors offer me such contracts, although I didn’t sign any because I was such a Free license booster.
The only reason BY-NC-SA is popular is because people really haven’t thought it through.
6. Money seems to be one of the main worries artists have when they hear someone saying “free your work“. Is this “fear“ justified? Have you recovered all the money spent in the making of Sita Sings the Blues?
No, this fear is not justified. But your question sure is biased: “Have you recovered all the money spent in the making of Sita Sings the Blues?” As if with copyright I would have! I have made more money with Freeing my work than I ever did with copyright restrictions. Period. Where do people get this idea that putting a © on something will magically generate money? It doesn’t. If it did, I would fully support copyright, and be rich. Copyright is a “right to exclude,” not a right to make money. You are free to make money without copyright, and you stand a better chance to as well.
7. You have recently announced that SSTB is now in the public domain. Although now you are finally free of burocracy envolving copyright stuff and this action could help your movie to have more visibility, on the other side it could favour restricted modifications of your work (e.g.: a book inspired by SSTB released under “all rights reserved“). How do you weigh these two sides?
Eh, honestly I just don’t care any more. Let’s just put it out there and see what happens. If something terrible happens because I shared freely, I’ll learn from that. But I think it’s stupid to worry about what other people do, and try to control it, especially with broken laws. Even Free Share-Alike licenses require copyright law to be enforced, and copyright law is hopelessly broken. I don’t want to validate or support it in any way.
Licenses are not going to fix our problems. What is fixing our problems is increasing numbers of people simply ignoring copyright altogether. Instead of trying to get people to pay more attention to the law, as CC does, I’d rather encourage them to ignore the law in favor of focusing on the art. Licenses are the wrong solution. Art is the solution. Make art not law.
8. Are you keen on the free software movement as well? Any of your works was made using free softwares?
I’m attending the 2013 Libre Graphics Meeting in Madrid this year, to discuss building a good Free vector animation tool I can actually use. More in this article, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where My Free Vector Animation Software Is?
A few years ago I started thinking about taking a vow of non-violence: a commitment to never sue anyone over Knowledge (or Culture, Cultural Works, Art, Intellectual Pooperty, whatever you call it). Copyright law is hopelessly broken; indeed, the Law in the US is broken all over the place. Why would I resort to the same broken law to try to fix abuses that occur within it?
We live in a messed-up world. My choices, however principled, will not change that. People will continue to censor, suppress, and enclose Knowledge. Share-Alike – the legal requirement to keep Knowledge Free – has ironically resulted in the suppression of same.
I learned of Aaron’s death on Sunday; on Monday, the National Film Board of Canada told me I had to fill out paperwork to “allow” filmmaker (and personal friend) Chris Landreth to refer to Sita Sings the Blues in his upcoming short, Subconscious Password, even though Fair Use already freed the NFB from any legitimate fear of Share-Alike’s viral properties. I make compromises to my principles every day, but that Monday I just couldn’t. The idiocy of NFB’s lawyers was part of the same idiocy that Aaron fought in liberating documents from JSTOR. I couldn’t bear to enable more bad lawyers, more bad decisions, more copyright bullshit, by doing unpaid paperwork for a corrupt and stupid system. I just couldn’t.
So the NFB told Chris to remove all references to SSTB from his film.
There are consequences for taking a principled stance. People criticize you, fear you, and pity you. You get plenty of public condemnation. You lose money. Sometimes the law goes after you, and although that hasn’t happened to me yet, it could as I do more civil disobedience in the future.
But the real victim of my principled stance isn’t me, it’s my work. When I took a principled stance against Netflix’s DRM, the result was fewer people saw SSTB. When countless television stations asked for the “rights” to SSTB and I told them they already had them, the result was they didn’t broadcast it. When publishers wanted to make a SSTB-based book, the Share-Alike license was a dealbreaker, so there are no SSTB books.
My punishment for opposing enclosure, restrictions, censorship, all the abuses of copyright, is that my work gets it.
Not using knowledge is an offense to it.
So, to the NFB, to Netflix, to all you publishers and broadcasters, to you legions of fucking lawyers: Sita Sings the Blues is now in the Public Domain. You have no excuse for suppressing it now.
Am I still fighting? Yes. BUT NOT WITH THE LAW. I still believe in all the reasons for BY-SA, but the reality is I would never, ever sue anyone over SSTB or any cultural work. I will still publicly condemn abuses like enclosure and willful misattribution, but why point a loaded gun at everyone when I’d never fire it? CC-0 is an acknowledgement I’ll never go legal on anyone, no matter how abusive and evil they are.
CC-0 is as close as I can come to a public vow of legal nonviolence. The law is an ass I just don’t want to ride.
I cannot abolish evil. The Law cannot abolish evil; indeed, it perpetuates and expands it. People will continue to censor, silence, threaten, and abuse Knowledge, and our broken disaster of a copyright regime will continue encouraging that. But in fighting monsters, I do not wish myself to become a monster, nor feed the monster I’m fighting.
Neither CC-BY-SA nor CC-0 will fix our flawed world with its terribly broken copyright regime. What I can say is SSTB has been under CC-BY-SA for the last 4 years, so I know what that’s like and can share results of that experiment. Going forward under CC-0 I will learn new things and have more results to share. That seems like a win even if some bad scenarios come into play. I honestly have not been able to determine which Free license is “better,” and switching to CC-0 may help answer that question.
“40 Years in the Desert,” a talk I gave at Copycamp in Warsaw, Poland, on November 26 2012. Audio is a bit messed up until 02:49, so just start there. I talk a bit about Questioncopyright.org and Minute Memes, liberally quote Rick Falkvinge, mention Fair Use and Creative Commons before getting into Intellectual Disobedience. Toward the end I discuss Seder-Masochism’s release plan.
With all the false copyright claims happening on Youtube, I’m lately asking myself why I use it at all. I guess the main reason is the Network Effect: Youtube is the most popular video host, so that’s where most people go to find videos. If my vids aren’t on Youtube, there’s a chance they won’t be found.
But I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason, in light of all the Content ID abuse. Thanks to Brewster’s comment yesterday, I’m embedding archive.org video below. If this works, it’ll be an ideal alternative.
Another alternative to Youtube is Vimeo. I’ve had problems with Vimeo’s speed, and have embedded videos fail to load. But maybe those problems will resolve.
A bonus feature of both of these: they don’t seem to use Flash (which my current Chrome browser doesn’t support anyway).
Today I received not one but two fraudulent copyright claims on my Free and Copyleft work (instances of Sita Sings the Blues and All Creative Work is Derivative). I’ve also received fraudulent claims on Copying Is Not Theft, as have others who have re-posted it and translations.
This is why I’m looking into Chinese video hosting. When China starts looking like a Free Speech haven, something is really wrong with the United States.