R.I.P. Roger Ebert

I am so grateful I got to meet Roger Ebert in 2009, when he screened Sita Sings the Blues at Ebertfest. He couldn’t speak then, but he stood onstage while his computer’s synthetic voice read his comments and looked intently in my eyes to make sure I was taking it in. He really wanted me to receive his gift, which was hard because it was so generous.

Roger Ebert and Nina Paley at Eberfest 2009. Photo by Chris Anderson

Here is his longer review of Sita Sings the Blues, which brought many, many viewers to it.

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R.I.P. Bruno Schwartz, 2000(?) – March 1 2013

my beloved cat

Bruno circa 2007

I knew it had to happen some day. Bruno stopped eating a little over a week ago and when his decline went into suffering (his purr box broke near the end, it was heartbreaking) we were lucky enough to get an angelic female vet and assistant (Bruno likes women and is afraid of men) to perform the kindest, gentlest euthanasia at  at home. I have the flu so I was in bed with him his last several days; there’s nothing he would have wanted more, I think. I still have the flu, and a broken heart, but I’m very grateful for the 10 years of love this wonderful cat gave me.

Ahimsa: Sita Sings the Blues now CC-0 “Public Domain”

I am hereby changing Sita Sings the Blues CC-BY-SA (Share Alike) license to CC-0.

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.

Not using knowledge is an offense to it,” wrote Jeff Jarvis, reflecting on the death of Aaron Swartz.

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.

R.I.P. Hiram Paley, 1933-2012

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Some articles about my Dad here, here and here.
The passage of time is incomprehensible and very in my face this week.

“Dhol Beat” – UNCENSORED!

I was working on Sita Sings the Blues when Manish Acharya asked me to animate the music video for Loins of Punjab Presents. I said yes because I loved his film so much. I’m so glad I did!

Sita Sings the Blues – Uncut Narrator Interview

I’ve wanted to share this uncut interview file for a long time now. The main reason I’ve held back is I wanted Aseem, Bhavana and Manish to listen to the whole thing and be comfortable with having it out in the world. As far as I know, none of them did listen to the whole thing. Still, Manish was worried that it might attract more negative attention from batshit fundamentalists. So, I held on to it…. Now Manish is gone and all we have left are our memories (mine is extremely fallible), and recordings like this one. At his memorial yesterday Chris Dillon played an excerpt, and said it was like having a new conversation with Manish. The batshit fundamentalists are batshit no matter what; whether we speak or are silent, they will hate. I don’t want fear of them to deprive anyone of a conversation with Manish. Plus, as you can hear, Manish was quite a respectful and thoughtful Hindu – moreso than the few clips in SSTB may have revealed. So here you go, World:

Sita Sings the Blues – uncut narrator interview

Grief Memory

RIP Manish Acharya

The brilliant director of Loins of Punjab Presents is no longer with us. I am shocked and heartbroken. He was a wonderful man – super intelligent, interested, warm, funny, talented, inspiring, always a pleasure to be around. My love to his family.

Manish’s voice was “Shadow Puppet #3″ in Sita Sings the Blues.

I’m still absorbing the shock. More when I get back from New Hampshire next week.