Credit is Due (The Attribution Song)


High res video, audio (song), and stills at archive.org Crossposted at QuestionCopyright.org.

LYRICS:
Always give credit where credit is due
if you didn’t write it, don’t say it’s by you
just copy the credit along with the work
or else you’ll come off as an arrogant jerk

Always give credit where credit belongs
we know that you didn’t write Beethoven’s songs
pretending you did makes you look like a fool
unless you’re Beethoven – in that case, it’s cool

A transparent system makes cheating unwise
the simplest web search exposes your lies
no one wants their reputation besmirched
which happens to liars when they are web-searched

Proper citation will make you a star
it shows that you know that we know who you are
Plagiarization will only harm you
so always give credit where credit is due!

Synopsis:
Mimi makes a copy of a Beethoven Symphony with a giant copy machine. Trouble starts when Eunice erases Beethoven’s name and writes in her own. This makes Eunice look like an ass. Searching the Internet (itself a giant copy machine) confirms that Eunice is a liar. Eunice realizes her mistake and corrects it, but by then everyone’s moved on – her plagiarism is barely a blip in the spread of correctly-attributed cultural works through copying.

Explanation:
Whenever I speak about Free Culture at schools, I’m asked “what about plagiarism?” Copying and plagiarism are two quite different things. As Mimi demonstrates with the giant Copy Machine, copying a work means copying its attribution too:

just copy the credit along with the work

When people copy songs and movies, they don’t change the authors’ names. Plagiarism is something else: it’s lying. If Copyright has anything to do with plagiarism, it’s that it makes it easier to plagiarize (because works and their provenance aren’t public and are therefore easier to obscure and lie about) and increases incentive to do so (because copying with attribution is as illegal as copying without, and including attribution makes the infringement more conspicuous). American Copyright law does not protect attribution to begin with; it is concerned only with “ownership,” not authorship.  Many artists sign their attributions away with the “rights” they sell, which is why it can be difficult to know which artists contributed to corporate works.

I chose Beethoven to illustrate how copyright has nothing to do with preventing plagiarism. All Beethoven’s work is in the Public Domain. Legally, you can take Ludwig van Beethoven’s songs, Jane Austen‘s novels, or Eadweard Muybridge‘s photographs and put any name you want on them. Go ahead! You’re at no risk of legal action. Your reputation may suffer, however, and you definitely won’t be fooling anyone. If anyone has doubts, they can use that same copy machine – the Internet – to sort out who authored what. Lying is very difficult in a public, transparent system. A good analog to this is public encryption keys: their security comes from their publicity.

The song says “always give credit where credit is due,” but in many cases credit is NOT due. For example, how many credits should be at the end of this film? I devoted about two and a half seconds to these credits:

Movie and Song by Nina Paley
Vocals by Bliss Blood

But I could have credited far more. In fact, the credits could take longer than the movie. Here are some more credits:

Ukelele: Bliss Blood
Guitar: Al Street
Recorded by Bliss Blood and Al Street

What about sound effects? Were it not for duration constraints, this would be in the movie:

Sound Effects Design by Greg Sextro

Every single sound effect in the cartoon was made by someone. Should I credit each one? Crash-wobble by (Name of Foley Artist Here). Cartoon zip-run by (Name of Other Foley Artist Here). And so on: dozens of sound effects were used in the cartoon, and each one had an author. What about the little noises Mimi & Eunice make? Not only could the recording engineer be credited, but the voice actor as well (as far as I know, these were both Greg Sextro).

I included a few seconds of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at the end, which I didn’t credit in the movie.  Should I have? Why or why not?

I could credit the characters:

Starring:
Mimi
Eunice
& Special Guest Appearance by
Ludwig van Beethoven

I could be more detailed in crediting myself:

Lyrics and Melody by Nina Paley
Character design: Nina Paley
Animation: Nina Paley
Produced by Nina Paley
Directed by Nina Paley
Edited by Nina Paley
Backgrounds by Nina Paley
Color design by Nina Paley
Layout: Nina Paley
Based on the comic strip “Mimi & Eunice” by Nina Paley

And the funder!

This Minute Meme was funded by a generous grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

I didn’t even make a card for the Minute Memes logo. Should that be in there?

I used a Public Domain painting of Beethoven for the Beethoven character, which is by Joseph Karl Stieler.  Who photographed the painting? Who digitized the photograph? Is credit due here?

File:Beethoven.jpg

The ass drawing also came from Wikimedia Commons, where it’s credited to Pearson Scott Foresman. But who actually drew it? I have no idea. I doubt that Pearson Scott Foresman could even legally claim the copyright on it to “donate” to Wikimedia in the first place, but there they are, getting credit for it instead of an artist. That’s because copyright is only concerned with “ownership,” not authorship.

File:Ass (PSF).pngThen there’s the software I used, good old pre-Adobe Macromedia Flash. Should I credit the software? What about the programmers who contributed to the software?
I also used a Macintosh computer (I know, I know, when Free Software and Open Hardware come close to doing what my old system does, I’ll be the first to embrace it) and a Wacom Cintiq pen monitor. How many people deserve credit for these in my movie?

Mimi and Eunice themselves were “inspired” by many historical cartoons. Early Disney and Fleischer animations, the “rubber hose” style, Peanuts, this recent cartoon, and countless other sources I don’t even know the names of – but would be compelled to find out, if credit were in fact due. Is it?

And so on. It is possible to attribute ad absurdum. So where is credit due? It’s complicated, the rules are changing, and standards are determined organically by communities, not laws. I had to edit the song for brevity, but I kind of wish I hadn’t excised this line:

A citation shows us where we can get more
of all the good culture that Free Culture’s for

Attribution is a way to help your neighbor. You share not only the work, but information about the work that helps them pursue their own research and maybe find more works to enjoy. How much one is expected to help their neighbor is determined by (often unspoken) community standards. People who don’t help their neighbors tend to be disliked. And those who go out of their way to deceive and defraud their neighbors – i.e. plagiarists – are hated and shunned. Plagiarism doesn’t affect works – works don’t have feelings, and what is done to one copy has no effect on other copies. Plagiarism affects communities, and it is consideration for such that determines where attribution is appropriate.

At least that’s the best I can come up with right now. Attribution is actually a very complicated concept; if you have more ideas about it, please share.

Share/Bookmark

Shiva Natraj Quilt

This is now hanging where Laxmi was. The photo below should give some sense of scale:

It’s 71″ x 71″ – almost 6 feet by 6 feet!

Wanna see work-in-progress documentary pix? Read on! Continue reading Shiva Natraj Quilt

A Wonderful Day

I’ve mentioned quilter Leah Day here before, and will mention her again. Leah “e”-teaches me and countless others how to Free Motion Quilt via her online Free Motion Quilting Project. I wrote about her refreshingly open attitude and progressive business model on Techdirt a few months ago. But I’m posting today to bring your attention to her new informational copyright page, which is so beautiful it almost brings a tear to my eye. This is how it’s done, people.

The Free Motion Quilting Project logo

I am awesome

I was neither prepared nor in a particularly good mood when I did this “webinar” for Agora I/O. It was eerie having a “conversation” in which I could neither see nor hear the other participants. It was just me and my own voice, with questions and comments occasionally popping up in text on another webpage. Because of that, I couldn’t read anyone’s body language and try to pre-emptively smooth things over and “people please”; I could only speak my mind. Which I did. Which, upon reviewing, was a pretty great thing. You may not like me, but I sure do!

The fun starts about 8 minutes in, and gets better as it goes along. If you know about my story and Sita Sings the Blues, you can skip what comes before that, which is a basic recap.

Piecing Water, or Why I’m Going to Make a Proper Pattern Next Time

I finally started the second in my series of “4 Elements” quilted tapestries: Water. Here’s the design:

Now, I’ve been avoiding proper pattern-making. I just print the thing out on multiple sheets of 11×17 paper, which I tape together and trace onto more taped-together sheets of freezer paper. Then I cut those out with a rotary cutter… Continue reading Piecing Water, or Why I’m Going to Make a Proper Pattern Next Time

My second quilt/embroidery experiment

Please keep in mind I’m new at this, and am doing these to learn. I’m sharing “process” more than anything.

OK, so after my first quilt, Eve, I wanted to avoid binding (sewing an additional fabric edge around the quilt) at all costs. Binding is a huge drag and I hated doing it. But after this experiment, I will probably suffer binding again, because it allows more options than what I did here. Which was to first sew the 3 layers together (batting on the bottom) and then turn them inside out, like a pillowcase, so they were all “turned in” rather than raw at the edges when I started. I didn’t photograph that part, sorry.

Then I wanted to try my new pounce, which is an ancient image-transfer method. Unfortunately the stupid pounce wheel I bought was useless on printer paper, so I cut a stencil with an X-Acto blade.

Yes it’s the exact same design I used before. Sue me. I thought this was going to be a quickie experiment that didn’t merit designing something new. I wasn’t planning to spend 3 days on it. Oh well. Also: the back of Eve I was all messed up, and I wanted to see what it looked like if it wasn’t all wrinkled and stuff.

Anyway, the pounced work great on the stencil and the image transferred thusly: Continue reading My second quilt/embroidery experiment

My New Hobby

is sewing/quilting/embroidery/textile arts.

Here’s my first quilt ( a small one, 29″ x 17.5″) which I finished last night. It’s for my Momz, who requested “a nude with all the bells and whistles.”

Everything I learned from teh interwebs, which is full of quilting information and many good videos. I especially like the web site & videos of Leah Day, who makes free motion quilting look much easier than it is. Leah shares her videos and knowledge freely, which works – I’m a fan now, and spent over $250 at her online quilting store. It’s a business model I’m familiar with.

Speaking of business models, there’s an argument made by copyright advocates that no one would do anything creative without monetary (or monopoly) incentives:
Incentive to Create

My past few weeks exploring quilting confirms this is absolutely not true. In less than a month of getting myself set up with a sewing machine, fabric, threads, and other supplies, I’ve probably shelled out $1,000. It started with an inexpensive sewing machine ($250), but then I needed special feet for it, and cutters, and an iron, and pins, and threads, and batting, and fabric, and a sewing table, and IKEA drawers to hold all this stuff, and on and on. And that was being budget-conscious; I could easily spend a lot more. In fact I really, really want a longer machine with more space under the arm; unfortunately those cost about $3,000.

I’m not alone: tens if not hundreds of thousands of Americans pay for the privilege to create, not the other way around. Most quilters are not paid; most actually give their work away, to family, friends and charities. That’s folk art, people: it’s not done for money. And yes, it is art.

It’s very much like filmmaking, which is now a folk art.

“The film business has never been a business. It’s always been a hobby.” –someone whose name I don’t remember at a film conference I attended last year

Even setting aside independent film productions, which are hobbies in business clothing, most people spend more on video cameras and computers than they’ll ever get back selling their work. With the spread of cheap animation software, animation is now a folk art too. With the rise of print-on-demand self-publishing, novel-writing is also becoming folk art (Pirates of Savannah by Tarrin Lupo is what I’d call a folk art novel). All the super-elite arts of the 20th Century are becoming folk art.

Would I still like to make money with this? Yes, I would. But I’ve already spent plenty of money with no promise of monetary return. It’s been worth it so far, because learning has been exhilarating. Hopefully traditional folk arts, like quilting, will continue to gain respect as “real” art, even as “real” arts are adopted by the masses. I confess I would like to sell original pieces, if I keep making them. It’s really up to my Muse.

After the jump are some pictures of the making of “Eve,” which took 3 days (4 if you include the day I designed it):

Continue reading My New Hobby

Spiral In, Spiral Out

I’ve been drawing for so long, I forget what it feels like to learn how to draw. But once in a while, I learn something really basic for the first time. I wanted to write about it before I forget what it feels like.

The topic: spirals. I love ’em. I used ’em for clouds in Sita Sings the Blues:
cloud from Sita Sings the Blues

And for ocean waves in my fake-Moghul-minature style:
Lanka from Sita Sings the Blues

Now, I believe I can draw anything. That doesn’t mean I can just sit down and draw anything off the top of my head. What it really means is I can copy anything. Everything in my drawing memory banks originated from copying one thing or another at one time (notice how I used “originated” and “copying” in the same sentence). Everything I copy is stored somewhere in my head, and my muscles too – actually moving my hand around a shape forms my mind in a way that just looking doesn’t.

I’ve looked at a lot of pictures of Tibetan-style clouds. Some of these showed up in Indian art, in the Adventures of Hamzaa, the beautiful catalogue of which I owned until I left it behind with the bed bugs. Apparently Moghuls imported artists from all over Asia, which is why some Moghul miniatures are beautiful mish-mashes of Persian and Himalayan styles.

I saw the spirals in those cloud designs, so I drew clouds with spirals. They didn’t really look the same, which was fine – I wasn’t copying directly, merely being “influenced.” I made do with the spiral-drawing skills I had.

Fast-forward to today, and my new hobby: sewing. It turns out you can draw with an ordinary sewing machine! It’s called “free motion,” and I only learned it was possible last month. A few weeks ago I bought a machine and fabric and stuff, beginning another kind of spiral that’s taking over my life & apartment (more on that later). Drawing with a sewing machine is different from drawing conventionally in 2 significant ways:

  1. The “pen” stays still and you move the “paper” (fabric) around.
  2. You can’t lift the pen. It stays down the whole time.

#1 is simple in theory, but difficult in practice as I need to retrain my muscles. It’s like holding a pen for the first time, or drawing with my feet. I’m clumsy, for sure.

#2 seems simple – after all, isn’t drawing intricate designs with long meandering continuous lines what every stoned college kid does? Well, I haven’t been a college kid for 23 years, and I don’t get stoned (my few experiences with pot didn’t go very well). I never thought about how much I lift my pen. I usually draw with a lot of short strokes. I had to get in the stoned-doodling-college-kid mindset and keep my pen down.

I thought the cloud designs from SSTB would look nice quilted, so I used one in this, my first Trapunto experiment (more after the jump):
Continue reading Spiral In, Spiral Out

Support Our Möbius Strips

Finally, a cause I can get behind.

If anyone wants to make magnets, let me know.

High Res here.

♡ Copying is an act of love. Please copy and share.

Kult der Originalität

My Cult of Originality essay gets a German translation, courtesy of Thomas Leske.
Creation of Adam

Ein kleiner illustrierter Aufsatz von Nina Paley. Sie lesen weiter.

Continue reading Kult der Originalität

Face-O-Matic

On a lighter note, enjoy this online toy coded by my friend Margo Burns. It is based on “Face-O-Matic” cards I originally designed to teach very inhibited grad students to draw cartoon facial expressions for a visual storytelling class at Parsons. Turns out all ages enjoy it. The drawings are extremely simple, so even people who claim they have no drawing skills can copy them without fear.

Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

Sita Soft SculptureThese aren’t dolls, or toys, or cushions – they’re SOFT SCULPTURES. Why? because regulatory capture means the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally call it a doll are beyond anything we could possibly afford.

ONLY 30 IN EXISTENCE! SIGNED AND NUMBERED. BUY ONE HERE FOR $50.

These limited edition soft sculptures were hand-appliqued, beaded, and embroidered in India by the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work; each unique piece is signed in embroidery by the woman who fashioned it. Because of the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally import them already stuffed, they were sent unstuffed to New York, where I and my colleagues lovingly stuffed each one with polyester fiber-fill and sewed them up by hand.

Bliss Blood, Bill Benzon and Karl Fogel help stuff and sew

That way, if calling them soft sculptures not dolls/toys/cushions, and including this “WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!” is not sufficient to avoid a lawsuit, it is I, Nina Paley, who will accept the liability, rather than Ubuntu at Work.

Stuffin' 'n' sewin'

While stuffing and sewing are exactly the sort of labor the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work desire, and do efficiently and well and affordably, regulatory capture of stuffed goods in the U.S. ensures they won’t get this work, and established legacy toy corporations with legal teams will hire slave labor to make corporate crap instead. Therefore this is a LIMITED EDITION of only 30 soft sculptures. Each one is also signed and numbered by me, Nina Paley.

Made of cotton fabric; cotton and polyester thread; small glass beads; polyester fiber fill. About 15″” tall.

WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!

Shahjahan, Mubeena, and Saiqa, who sewed, beaded and embroidered the shells, see me finish them. They're in Bangalore and I'm in New York. This evidence of our collaboration kind of blows my mind.

Continue reading Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

♡License to Love

Thanks everyone for your comments on Driving Without a License. Crosbie Fitch’s last comment inspired me to make this notice:

♡ Copying art is an act of love. Please copy.

What’s great about it is it’s plain old text – you can copy and paste that heart. There is no webding for the copyleft symbol. You could also use the filled-in heart instead of the outline:

♥ copying art is an act of love. please copy.

It could be shortened:

♡ Copying is an act of love. Please copy.

and varied:

♡ Copying art is an act of love. Love is not subject to law.

The ♡ could graphically substitute for a ©. For example:

♡ 2010 by Nina Paley. Please copy.

Don’t care about attribution? Keep it simple and mysterious:

♡ 2010

The ♡ can’t be trademarked (I hope), which means it can’t be controlled. That’s fine with me. Other people can, and do, use ♡ to mean all sorts of things. But it has a shared cultural meaning that transcends any use one person could put it to. Its power is that it’s not a license, not a trademark. It’s not subject to law.
Love is not subject to law.

What do you think?

Inspiration (a.k.a. Artist’s Prayer)

Our Idea
Which art in the Ether
That cannot be named;

Thy Vision come
Thy Will be done
On Earth, as it is in Abstraction.

Give us this day our daily Spark
And forgive us our criticisms
As we forgive those who critique against us;

And lead us not into stagnation
But deliver us from Ego;

For Thine is the Vision
And the Power
And the Glory forever.

Amen.

Copying Is Not Theft – Best!

At last, our “official” version of Copying Is Not Theft, with a fab new arrangement by Nik Phelps!