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.
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. Hopefully the video will be online within a few months Video embedded above.
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.
Often I hear people engaged in creative pursuits ask, “Am I allowed to use this? I don’t want to get in trouble.”
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 don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer “Have a holly jolly Christmas, And when you walk down the street “Say hello to friends you know and everyone you meet!”
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.
Are you a law student? Want to work on a project with me and QuestionCopyright.org? We need a legal intern to research the history of copyright suits in the quilting world. How common are copyright suits among quilters? How many cases settle? What sort of decisions emerge from those that go to court? How does copyright law apply to quilting, given its similarity to fashion (utilitarian) and other arts (decorative)? Details at QuestionCopyright.org:
Calling all law students — or at least the ones who weren’t planning to work for the RIAA later:
Our legal intern position is open! We’re looking for someone interested in learning more about copyright law and using it to promote freedom. Several of our projects have legal components, so the responsibilities of the position are varied. They will involve research in U.S. and international copyright law, non-profit law (federal and CA state), some trademark law, tracking legislative developments, some writing, etc. The minimum time commitment is about five hours a week, with more available if you want it. A New York City location is preferred but not required. There may be some limited travel (which we pay for), at your discretion.
The position is unpaid, but you would be working with an experienced lawyer (our counsel, Karen Sandler), and we’re happy to meet reasonable requirements for law school credit.
Interested? Contact us. We’ll keep the posting open until we get the right candidate — it could be you!
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.
Don’t care about attribution? Keep it simple and mysterious:
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.
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:
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?
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 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.
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.
My goodness, no one seems to know what grand juries are! I sure didn’t, until this week. Because they’re called “juries,” people think they’re trial juries. Not at all! Here’s a good article explaining how grand juries work by activist Craig Rosebraugh.
Grand Juries, often referred to as the “strong arm of the court system,” thrive off public ignorance, working behind closed doors and under seemingly little regulation. Often working in accordance with the Justice Department, the Grand Jury system has been, and continues to be, used for gathering intelligence and suppressing “radical” groups and organizations that oppose current governmental policies.
In my experience, the most fascinating aspect about Grand Juries is that the public is largely misinformed and kept in the dark about their true nature. Most citizens do not realize that an individual called before a Grand Jury has neither the right to counsel nor Fifth Amendment protection in the proceedings. I have found that people from all walks of life are outraged when they learn of this reality.
It is this very secrecy and deception that has allowed Grand Juries to persist. It is a simple rule that says if no one is informed, no one will object. (link)
I don’t know if it’s legal for me to write this, but I must say that so far my grand jury experience resembles the Milgram Experiment. That’s the one where an authority instructs an “average person” to administer painful electric shocks to someone else. As long as the authority figure tells them it’s ok, the “average person” just keeps pushing that shock button, ignoring the victims’ screams of agony because the authority instructs them to. Likewise, the prosecuting attorneys instruct us to ignore any details about cases they don’t control; if we ask questions about other charges, they say that’s none of our business. We don’t get to see or hear our victims; we have only authorities telling us to push the button. In a sealed, secret room. I’ve sat on my hands a number of times, but believe me, most people are happy to comply with the authorities. They know not what they do, and the system likes it that way.
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
Please understand what grand juries are. They need to be abolished, as they have been almost everywhere outside the United States.
“Most thinkers…hold that you own your own life, and it follows that you must own the products of that life, and that those products can be traded in free exchange with others,” claims Wikipedia’s latest entry on property. “Every man has a property in his own person,” says John Locke. Ayn Rand (who I generally can’t stand, but who I’m happy to quote as a passionate defender of the sanctity of property) wrote, “Just as man can’t exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one’s rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which means: the right of property.”
You also have a property in your own MIND. That which lives in your mind, is your property. And everyone deserves Rand’s “right to translate one’s rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results” – in other words to freely think, express, and own the contents of their own mind. That is what “intellectual property” should (but doesn’t) mean: everyone’s right to their own mind.
Instead, legally defined “Intellectual Property” means exactly the opposite: it transfers ownership of the contents of your mind to others. It alienates the ideas in your mind, from you. Is there a song running through your mind right now? It doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to Warner-Chappell. You are forbidden to express it; “performance” requires permission. “To think, to work” – interpret – “and keep the results” – record and sell copies of – the song in your mind, are illegal.
Thus Intellectual Property gives alien, private owners title to our minds. We may think culture (songs, text, images) only in secret; any expressions of cultural thought belong not to the thinker, but to the IP owner. Your thoughts are “derivative works”; someone else has title to them. You may have “Porgy and Bess” in your mind, but interpreting or singing it out loud is forbidden. That part of your mind belongs to Gershwin’s heirs and their lackeys.
Wikipedia’s entry on Chattel Slavery states: “The living human body is, in most modern societies, considered something which cannot be the property of anyone but the person whose body it is.” The living human mind should be the same. Legally defined “Intellectual Property” is, quite simply, someone else’s ownership of your mind. If they own the right to express what lives in your mind, the right “to think, to work and keep the results,” then they own your mind; they own you. What can we call that, except slavery?