correction again, again

I’m reposting this (originally posted July 2009) for a third time, because misinformation continues to spread all over the interwebs. I should post it more often.

correction

Dear Journalists Dear Journalists, bloggers, commenters, etc.,

Some of you are writing that I was forced to choose the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license because the film is violating copyright. That is completely untrue, but has become the dominant motif of stories I read about the project. The confusion is understandable, so I attempt to sort it out below.

Sita Sings the Blues is 100% legal. I am free to release it commercially, which is why the film is gaining a number of commercial distributors in addition to its free sharing/audience distribution, which is also legal, and wonderful.

Sita Sings the Blues is in complete compliance with copyright regulations. I was forced to pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt.  My compliance with copyright law is by no means an endorsement of it. Being $70,000 in the hole reminds me daily what an ass the law is. The film is legal, and that legality gives me a higher moral ground to stamp my feet upon as I denounce the failure that is copyright.

Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

Note that in some ways the film is not, and never will be free. For each disc sold, distributors must pay $1.65 to these faceless money sinks.  Transaction costs raise that amount to about $2.00 per disc. That is why my own Artist’s Edition is limited to 4,999 copies. I’ve already bled $50,000 into their vampiric maws; I have no intention of paying more.

Thank you for your attention.

Love,

–Nina

Share/Bookmark

Authoritarian update

crossposted from Mimi & Eunice

Authoritarian

I’m re-posting this cartoon today because the US Department of Homeland Security seized more than 70 web sites over the weekend (while sites like arstechnica.com and techdirt were on vacation, and the mainstream media were devoted to stories about holiday shopping). Democrats: unless you stand up to stop this NOW, I am never voting for you again.

Driving Without a License?

Since posting about Creative Commons’ branding confusion, several French patriots have suggested I switch to the Art Libre License.  I am resisting because I can’t work up enthusiasm for any license today.

The idea that every user could and should understand the complexities of copyright licensing appears increasingly delusional to me. The only people who should need to understand licenses are lawyers and their clients. Most users don’t have legal teams involved with their creative and distributive processes, nor should they. Using licenses – even ShareAlike and Art Libre licenses – legitimizes copyright lawyers and copyright laws and the absurd notion that artists should have to give a damn about them.

The only entities my ShareAlike license would really affect are corporations (or in rare cases, people) with lawyers. But for everyone else, I’m considering marking my work thusly:

All Rights Reversed 1

There’s no lawyer-approved legalese behind this. It’s just a statement of intent. It’s certainly compatible with the ShareAlike license and its attendant legal code, which I can still use where appropriate (like on the © page of a book, if I really want to back up my intentions with legal force).

Mike Masnick of Techdirt doesn’t use any license at all. It’s a nice idea, not legitimizing copyright law at all, but because everything is copyrighted by default, there’s no way for users to know they are free to copy and share. Every few days some commenter “threatens” Masnick with “unauthorized copying,” to which he responds that he genuinely doesn’t care, so that periodically informs Techdirt regulars. But that’s more labor than I want to put into assuaging users’ fear.

Hopefully users will have less and less fear as time goes on, and there will be less need to assuage. The fact is, most people really don’t care about copyright. Yet they copy. Even as we argue about different licenses, and how to license, and what the Free-est kind of license is, people are ignoring us and just copying what they feel like. They’re not just ignoring the RIAA and MPAA and copyright moralists; they’re ignoring copyright reformers and abolitionists and Creative Commons and the “copy left” too. They may feel some guilt and fear, but our licenses really aren’t going to do anything about that. They don’t care. And that’s fine with me. They shouldn’t care. No one should care about copyright, because copyright shouldn’t exist.

P.S. – which “all rights reversed” style do you like the most?

All Rights Reversed 1#1: lower case

All Rights Reversed 2#2: ALL-CAPS

All Rights Reversed 3#3: colon

UPDATE: Maybe I should just use this:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_gJRH0WBm3Xw/SXU5xZrL1ZI/AAAAAAAAAM8/RuDmMwsUDw4/S1600-R/PleaseRecycle.png

We don’t like ignorant jerks either

It seems the same people who can’t tell the difference between fraud and copying, also can’t tell the difference between anti-social disregard for authors and copyright reform. Folks invoking my name in the Cooks Source scandal are as clueless as Judith Griggs.

As usual, Techdirt has the best article on the topic:

…Cooks Source Magazine copied one woman’s blog post and published it as an article, without asking her permission or letting her even know about it. They did put her name on it, but she only found out after a friend spotted it and told her about it. Where the story takes a bizarre twist is after emailing with the editor of the magazine, Judith Griggs, asked the original author, Monica, what she wanted. Monica suggested a public apology (on Facebook) and a modest $130 donation to Columbia’s journalism school. That’s when Griggs responded like this:

“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

That response not only shows a rather confused understanding of copyright law, but also suggests someone who’s kinda sorta heard arguments about why copying can be beneficial, and jumbled them all together in her head. Now, we’ve spent plenty of time over the years showing how content creators can be better off allowing their works to be copied, but even so, Grigg’s response appears totally tone deaf to what Monica’s actual concerns were. But here’s where social mores and reputational value take over. Monica’s story made it onto Reddit and it got picked up by tons of others, leading the Facebook page of Cooks Source to be filled with angry comments from people supporting Monica.

Read the rest here.

Added Value

Crossposted from Mimi & Eunice

Mimi & Eunice’s character designs evolved (barely) from this Copying Is Not Theft animation:

You’ll notice it starts off with the nose-stealing gag. I saw a similar gag over a decade ago in a brilliant Sam Henderson comic, the Magic Whistle, which made me laugh and laugh. Since Sam has made about a zillion such comics, I can’t find that one, but I did find this amusing one that relates to one of my favorite subjects, the First Amendment: Continue reading Added Value

Creative Commons’ Branding Confusion

the bane of my existence

About a year and a half ago I released my film Sita Sings the Blues under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. That license allows truly free distribution, including commercial use, as long as the free license remains in place.  But my experience is that most people see the words “Creative Commons” and simply assume the license is Non-Commercial — because the majority of Creative Commons licenses they’ve seen elsewhere have been Non-Commercial.

This is a real problem. Some artists have re-released Sita remixes under Creative Commons Non-Commercial licenses. Many bloggers and journalists assume the non-commercial restrictions, even when the license is correctly named:

The film was made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License, allowing third parties to share the creative content for non-commercial purposes freely as long as the author of the content is attributed as the creator of the work. –from Frontline, India’s National Magazine

Initially I tried to explain what “ShareAlike” means to CC-NC remixers of “Sita”, and asked them to please switch to ShareAlike, per the terms of the ShareAlike license under which I released it. I felt like an ass; I don’t want to be a licensing cop. After a while, mis-identifications of the project’s license became so widespread I gave up trying to correct them. “Creative Commons” means “Non-Commercial” to most people. Fighting it is a sisyphean task.

So I’m stuck with a branding problem. As long as I use any Creative Commons license, most people will think it prohibits commercial use. Hardly anyone seems to register, let alone understand, CC-SA.  Worse, those who do notice the ShareAlike marker combine it with Non-Commercial restrictions on their re-releases, which compounds the confusion (CC-NC-SA is the worst license I can imagine).

ShareAlike is an imperfect solution to copyright restrictions, as it imposes one restriction of its own: a restriction against imposing any further restrictions. It’s an attempt to use copyright against itself. As long as we live in a  world wherein everything is copyrighted by default, I will use ShareAlike or some other Copyleft equivalent to attempt to maintain a “copyright-free zone” around my works. In a better world, there would be no automatic copyright and thus no need for me to use any license at all. Should that Utopia come about, I will remove all licenses from all my work. Meanwhile I attempt to limit other peoples’ freedom to limit other peoples’ freedom.

It would be nice if the Creative Commons organization did something to address this branding confusion. We suggested re-branding ShareAlike licenses as CC-PRO, but given that Creative Commons’ largest constituency is users of Non-Commercial licenses, it seems unlikely (but not impossible!) that they would distinguish their true Copyleft license with a “pro” brand.

If only Creative Commons offered this!

It would also be nice if everyone, including representatives of Creative Commons, referred to their licenses by their names, instead of just “Creative Commons.” “Thank you for using a Creative Commons license,” they tell me. You’re welcome; I would thank you for calling it a ShareAlike license. Almost every journalist refers to all 7 licenses as simply “Creative Commons licenses.” And so in the popular imagination, my ShareAlike license is no different from a Non-Commercial, No-Derivatives license.

This branding crisis came to a head recently when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation banned all Creative Commons licensed music in its shows:

The issue with our use of Creative Commons music is that a lot of our content is readily available on a multitude of platforms, some of which are deemed to be ‘commercial’ in nature (e.g. streaming with pre-roll ads, or pay for download on iTunes) and currently the vast majority of the music available under a Creative Commons license prohibits commercial use.


In order to ensure that we continue to be in line with current Canadian copyright laws, and given the lack of a wide range of music that has a Creative Commons license allowing for commercial use, we made a decision to use music from our production library in our podcasts as this music has the proper usage rights attached.
link

The Creative Commons organization wants to get the CBC to separate out its different licenses.  They could help by calling their licenses by their different names. If the Creative Commons organization itself calls them all “Creative Commons Licenses,” how can they expect others to distinguish the licenses from each other?

Perhaps Creative Commons should only offer the Non-Commercial/No Derivatives licenses everyone associates with the name. Then they could create a new name/brand for their Free licenses. FreeCommons? CultureSource? CopyLove?

Meanwhile, I’m wondering how to clearly communicate my work is COPYLEFT. In addition to the CC-SA license, if there’s room I write “COPYLEFT, ALL WRONGS REVERSED”. Unfortunately, the term “Copyleft” is growing increasingly meaningless as well. For example, Brett Gaylor’s mostly excellent film RIP: A Remix Manifesto gets a lot of things right, but it misunderstands and misuses the term “copyleft”. Copyleft actually means this:

the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work. In other words, copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well. -Wikipedia

But in RIP it means this:

Non-Commercial restrictions are NOT Copyleft!

WTF, RIP?

See that dollar sign with the slash in it? That means Non-Commercial restrictions, which are most definitely NOT Copyleft.

WTF, RIP?

NC stands for Not Copyleft

Anyone introduced to the word “Copyleft” in that film won’t know what Copyleft actually means in terms of licenses.

I need a license that people understand. I’m tempted by the WTFPL but I would have to fork it to add a copyleft provision. The Do Whatever You Want And Don’t Restrict Others From Doing Whatever They Want Public License? WTFDROPL?

Are there any other useable Copyleft licenses out there that aren’t associated with non-commercial restrictions? I’m open to suggestions.

Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom

I’m thrilled to be on the Advisory Board of the new Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom with such luminaries as Mike Masnick, Michele Boldrin, Julio Cole, Karl Fogel, David Koepsell, David Levine, Wendy McElroy, Jeff Tucker, and Roderick T. Long. The project is directed by Stephan Kinsella, author of the seminal Against Intellectual Property.

Because there’s only so much room in my bio blurb, I’ve rounded up a bunch of my
Related Writings:
Redefining Property: Lessons From American History
The Cult of Originality
Paley vs. Doctorow (a debate about non-commercial licenses)
Four Freedoms of Free Culture
Understanding Free Content
“Intellectual Property” is Slavery
Free as in Phreedom

Comics
Mimi & Eunice
IP Comics

Related Works: Animation
Sita Sings the Blues
All Creative Work Is Derivative
Copying Is Not Theft
Copying And Surveillance (a cartoon for the EFF)

Also:
“The Revolution Will Be Animated”, a documentary about Sita & Free Culture & me by Marine Lormant Sebag

non-commercial

Mimi & Eunice say it for me

Most of my thoughts about Free Culture are currently coming out as Mimi & Eunice cartoons. Check out their ever-expanding Intellectual Pooperty category. And please subscribe to their RSS feed.

Everything is a Remix

More info here.

Excerpts from my HOPE talk

Excerpts from my talk “Sita Sings the Blues: a Free Culture Success Story” at The Next H.O.P.E. (Hackers On Planet Earth) conference, July 16 2010 in New York City. Includes: why I insisted on authentic songs, what is and is not property, software is culture, the difference between Share Alike (copyleft) and other Creative Commons licenses, why I paid to legally license the old songs, how noncommercial copyright infringement is still illegal, legal costs, benefits of audience sharing & decentralized distribution, the Sita Sings the Blues Merchandise Empire (sitasingstheblues.com/store), open-licensed merch, audience goodwill, how fans support artists, rivalrous vs. non-rivalrous goods, the Creator Endorsed Mark, migrating Flash files to open formats, gift income, commerce without monopolies, why I encourage legal sharing, and more!

Learn about the movie: http://sitasingstheblues.com/
Donate: http://questioncopyright.org/sita_dis…
Store: http://sitasingstheblues.com/store
HOPE: http://thenexthope.org/

Paley & Doctorow argue over Non-Commercial licenses

Venerable author Cory Doctorow and I had this email correspondence this Summer, with the intention of sharing it to illuminate some issues confronting Free Culture and Creative Commons licenses. My thanks to Cory!

May 17, 2010

Hi Cory,

I’m writing to invite you to experiment with what I think is a brilliant innovation from QuestionCopyright.org: the Creator Endorsed Mark.

You clearly laid out your reasons for using -NC licenses in THE COPYRIGHT THING:

“I like the fact that copyright lets me sell rights to my publishers and film studios and so on. It’s nice that they can’t just take my stuff without permission and get rich on it without cutting me in for a piece of the action.” link

The Creator Endorsed Mark effectively achieves the same thing, but without commercial monopolies. As you know, -NC licenses have some drawbacks: there’s no clear delineation between commercial and non-commercial use. You write,

“It’s just stupid to say that an elementary school classroom should have to talk to a lawyer at a giant global publisher before they put on a play based on one of my books.” link

It is stupid, but if the school raises any money to put on that play, or charges for tickets, or any number of other likely scenarios, then it’s commercial use of your work. You know it’s stupid, and I know it’s stupid, and maybe even some teachers and students know it’s stupid, but the school is obliged to obey the law, and the -NC license says they have to negotiate permission. If there’s a legal adviser at that school, they’re not going to allow the play without permission; and if asking for permission is too uncertain or labor-intensive (as it is in almost all cases – a lawyer may not know what an exception yours is), they won’t put on the play.

The Creator Endorsed Mark solves that problem. There is no commercial monopoly to infringe on. Big players – “publishers and film studios and so on” – need your Endorsement. If they cross you and your fans, they have a huge publicity problem; if they obtain your endorsement and cooperation, they sell more copies. The Creator Endorsed Mark increases the monetary value of distributed works, and is an essential investment for a distributor to make. But unlike a commercial monopoly, it doesn’t legally threaten or punish all those other players who are so crucial to a thriving cultural economy: schools putting on plays, other creatives building on the work, and otherwise unimaginable scenarios.

Continue reading Paley & Doctorow argue over Non-Commercial licenses

An Open Letter to Lincoln Center

Dear Lincoln Center,

On Friday, May 28, I attended a NY Philharmonic performance of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre.

All patrons were required to pass through long “security” lines and have our bags searched by guards. Those carrying cameras were forbidden from entering the auditorium and ordered to check their bags in an even longer line.

New Yorkers tolerate “security” searches because they remember the falling of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. They are willing to be treated as suspected terrorists and “guilty until proven innocent” criminals because they fear for their physical safety. They rationalize Lincoln Center’s “security” policy because they don’t want anyone bringing a bomb or weapon into a large closed space containing thousands of vulnerable people.

But cameras are not a security threat. In fact, citizen cameras increase security, and their forced removal puts us in greater danger. In the unlikely event a terrorist were able to bring a weapon into the auditorium, citizens carrying cameras would document it. Presumably Lincoln Center has its own “security” cameras, but no fixed, closed surveillance system is as effective as citizens.

I don’t trust Lincoln Center’s “security” to protect me or anyone; they are incompetent at actual security, effective only at treating patrons like suspected criminals, creating long tedious lines, and converting what was once an uplifting cultural experience into something resembling a visit to an airport. I can visit the airport for free, but being treated like a criminal at Lincoln Center cost close to $100.

After being ejected from a very long security line to enter the theater, and redirected to stand in an even longer line to the coat check, I moved my camera from  my large bag into my small purse and found another entrance to the auditorium. This line’s “security” guard did not see or feel a camera, so I was allowed in. That let me know how effective the “security” guards would be at detecting a weapon or any genuine threat: not at all. Lincoln Center’s “security” did not make me feel “secure” – quite the opposite – but it did make me feel harassed.

Why does Lincoln Center treat cameras its greatest threat to “security”? Does the organization believe that photographing its productions is “stealing”? Let me remind you that anyone who wants to copy images of Lincoln Center’s copyrighted material, is physically capable of doing so. Photos of Lincoln Center and its productions circulate in Lincoln Center’s advertising, in print and on the internet. Lincoln Center has Copyright law to protect them against such illegal image-copying. Copyright law also applies to any unauthorized photos taken by audience members. Lincoln Center may ban taking photographs in its auditoria without confiscating cameras themselves. Galleries and other performance spaces do this: they have signs that say NO PHOTOGRAPHS. Banning cameras in the theater does absolutely nothing to “protect” anyone. It does however abuse legitimate theater patrons, the ones who bought expensive tickets expecting a civilized experience. Furthermore, banning citizen cameras makes it impossible for citizens to document real danger, thereby lessening everyone’s real security.

People dress up to go to Lincoln Center. They pay hundreds of dollars. They believe it’s important to support the arts. In return, Lincoln Center treats its patrons like criminals, and exploits their fears of terrorism to enforce a misguided, dangerous, and invasive no-camera policy.

Lincoln Center should abandon its dangerous and harassing “security” policies and return to respecting its patrons.

Sincerely,

–Nina Paley
Art Lover

Mimi’s device gets bricked

This is from a little cartoon I’m working on about DRM, privacy, and “three strikes.”

Correction, again

I’m reposting this (originally posted July 2009) because misinformation continues to spread all over the interwebs. Maybe I’ll post it every month.

correction

Dear Journalists Dear Journalists, bloggers, commenters, etc.,

Some of you are writing that I was forced to choose the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license because the film is violating copyright. That is completely untrue, but has become the dominant motif of stories I read about the project. The confusion is understandable, so I attempt to sort it out below.

Sita Sings the Blues is 100% legal. I am free to release it commercially, which is why the film is gaining a number of commercial distributors in addition to its free sharing/audience distribution, which is also legal, and wonderful.

Sita Sings the Blues is in complete compliance with copyright regulations. I was forced to pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt.  My compliance with copyright law is by no means an endorsement of it. Being $70,000 in the hole reminds me daily what an ass the law is. The film is legal, and that legality gives me a higher moral ground to stamp my feet upon as I denounce the failure that is copyright.

Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

Note that in some ways the film is not, and never will be free. For each disc sold, distributors must pay $1.65 to these faceless money sinks.  Transaction costs raise that amount to about $2.00 per disc. That is why my own Artist’s Edition is limited to 4,999 copies. I’ve already bled $50,000 into their vampiric maws; I have no intention of paying more.

Thank you for your attention.

Love,

–Nina

What’s wrong with “streaming” DRM?

Judging from comments here, at Techdirt, and at BoingBoing, there seems to be much confusion about why I don’t want DRM on Sita Sings the Blues. The simplest explanation is this: I am making my film available to all under an open license. Allowing a party to take the benefit of that license, but then limit the rights of downstream users is inconsistent and frustrates the original purpose of the open license — to promote and facilitate access and use of the work.

Some people seem to think DRM is irrelevant on “streaming content.” I was one of them, which is why I was initially so indecisive about the Netflix streaming offer. DRM encourages people to think of certain liberties as being impossible, rather than merely taken away. Already many people think that “streaming” means “cannot be saved on my computer,” instead of “optimized for real-time flow”.  People make this false equation entirely because of user-side DRM.

So along with its other problems, DRM is a kind of anti-literacy device for the digital age.  The more hobbled people’s phones and computers and music players get, the harder it is to remember what it was like when those devices served their users rather than the monopolists. The more deeply embedded DRM becomes, the more its restrictions will come to feel like “just the way things are”, rather than an impediment that could conceivably be removed or worked around.

I respectfully submit a typical comment:

Its not a download or purchase , its “Free Streaming” . From my Roku box to my tv why should you or I care if it has drm.

This is a perfect example of the kind of illiteracy mentioned above. “…we’re talking about a stream, which by definition is not saved on your computer”.  This commenter and others have bought the industry’s definition of “stream”, even though there’s nothing inherent in streaming that prevents saving. I can’t blame them; until last week, I didn’t think about what “streaming” meant either.

Here’s another typical comment:

You’re obviously making a symbolic stand here. That’s fine. But please at least be honest about that instead of claiming that Netflix streaming is “breaking” my home electronics. My computer and my Xbox work just fine and my rights have not been violated in any tangible or meaningful way.

If data is sent to your computer, and yet your computer won’t let you save that data, than an important function of your computer has been interfered with.  Who does your computer work for, anyway, you or them? It’s not just a hypothetical breakage, either.  For example, if you wanted to divide the same incoming stream to two different computers in your house, similarly to how a “Y” pipe would do with water, Netflix DRM will prevent that.  Normally, your computer could do that just fine, but not when it’s broken.

If the quibble is with the word “broken,” we can use the less-inflammatory word “disabled,” although people are eager to forget that “disabling” a computer means “breaking it in increments.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

My rejection of DRM is not a condemnation of Netflix (I like Netflix!) nor of those who use this very convenient service. I made this difficult decision as the author of Sita Sings the Blues. The only reason Netflix has DRM on its streams is because of pressure from the “content industry.” Well guess what – I am the content industry too, and I say no to DRM.

Nina_IFC_640_contentinustry

Thanks to Karl Fogel for contributing to this article.