More Courtroom Drawings

This one’s about the Grand Jury selection process.

This one’s about…it’s hard to say. It’s supposed to loop.

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“Intellectual Property” is Slavery

Brain01

“Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.”
John Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government

“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?

Public Knowledge

Here’s a rather feisty and spirited interview I did with Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge, a “D.C.-based public interest group working to defend citizens’ rights in the emerging digital culture.” It’s very low-res and gritty Skype video, but the message comes through loud and clear.

CORRECTION

 correction

Dear Journalists,

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

More (C)ensorship

Amazon erased purchased e-books from consumers’ Kindles. Wait’ll you find out what books. This is an inevitable consequence of Digital Restrictions Mongering.

Meanwhile, US courts banned a book using ©ensorship law!

©ensorship men’s tshirt

Now’s as good a time as any to plug QuestionCopyright.org‘s ©ensorship T-shirts. They’re actually quite inexpensive, and wearing them does a huge public service as you educate people around you.

“Wearing them really works, by the way. I wore one on a train recently and wound up having a great conversation about copyright with two people, one of them a musician coming back from a gig, after they asked me about the front.” –Karl Fogel

Gained in Translation

A succinct description of my copyright issues from an Estonian blog“showing the ass and the bureaucratic world is in places.”

Sita Sings the Blues is an interesting project. Namely, the film has a good standing for the preparation of Nina Paley Free Culture Movemendi ie maakeeli supporter of the free culture movement, and hence it calls for free to see their movies and others to show. Who has Ninale may want to donate money in your account, but it is not mandatory. Muusikamaailmas is such a free offer their own popularity to gather in silence. It seemed okay, for example, whether the move indiefilmid legally allalaetavateks. Who can be a very jamada to read a film Sita Sings the Blues also legal to write DVD-only 100% after a conscientious must pay royalties to the songs for the movie sound. The fact that some companies have a song from one of 27.5% and 19.25% U.S. soil in the world, showing the ass and the bureaucratic world is in places. Ah, who see the movie Home of the interest-http://www.sitasingstheblues.com

Read the rest…

RiP: a Remix Manifesto

RiP: a Remix Manifesto is a fun, accessible introduction to “Intellectual Property.” Below is one of my favorite sections, showing how culture is more than just songs and images.

video platform
video management
video solutions
free video player

Of course it’s open source, so go watch the whole thing – or remix it.

Sita DVD announcement list

We’re almost done authoring the Sita Sings the Blues DVD packaging and getting an order fulfillment service to ship it. Meanwhile, here’s something to do: sign up here with just your email address, and we’ll send you an mail with ordering information as soon as it’s ready.

Because the “content” is free – you can download it all online – what we’re actually selling is DVD packaging, not the film itself. This includes a nicely printed full color recycled cardstock “eco” case, and a silkscreened “pre-downloaded” DVD with the film and various features like subtitles, the trailer, and some video interviews of me ranting about copyright. The DVD is a nice package, a real object, and you can actually own it – it’ll still be there even if the internet (or your connection to it) disappears.

We’re planning two “Official” editions of the DVD packaging. The basic consumer version will be about $20:

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Then there’s the Artist’s Edition, which will be about $100. This will be a more elaborate package – 6 panels instead of 4 – numbered and signed by me. This edition will be limited to 4,999. Why 4,999? Because for every 5,000 DVDs sold, I have to make additional payments (beyond the $50,000 I have already paid) to the corporations that hold copyright monopolies on some of the music used in the film.  I don’t believe culture can be owned, and I’ve released my film under a free license to ensure that it can never be similarly trapped, but as long as the government enforces these monopolies, I must count DVDs.

Artist’s Edition

The cover art isn’t final but will be in a few days. I could use the “happy Sita” image on the artist’s edition, and the “artsy Sita” on the consumer version. Leave your suggestions now or forever hold your peace. Thanks!

Copying Isn’t Theft

UPDATE: can anyone arrange this as a show tune? I originally heard it in my head as a show tune, but I’m musically illiterate. See the growing links list of awesome covers here.

Feel free to remix, re-record, or otherwise re-make this song so I can animate to it.Full interview on Thirteen.org.

Help Wanted: Can Your Servers Host a Feature Film?

On March 7, New York’s WNET Channel13 will broadcast Sita Sings the Blues. WNET hopes to make a compressed version available for streaming on their web site even earlier (they’re aiming for February 26; we’ll keep you posted).

But we also want to release it freely for decentralized audience distribution all over the web. To that end, we’re looking for multiple servers to host 500-600GB of data for public download (this includes the film-resolution image sequences as well as HD and compressed versions). We’re in touch with the usual suspects, but if you want to offer server space to join this project, please contact Karl Fogel of QuestionCopyright.org.

Note that we’re still in negotiations with the old music licensors, who may or may not allow us to freely share my film. PBS can broadcast and stream it regardless, due to special conditions in US copyright law. But the more”seed” sites we have lined up before the release, the better.

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From Karl’s QuestionCopyright post:

We’ll need some “seed” sites to host it: Internet servers with the capacity to offer about 500-600GB of data for public download. If you or your institution has that kind of bandwidth and storage, please contact us. We’ll work out a way to get the data to you.

Why March 7th?

That night, Sita Sings The Blues will be broadcast on New York’s public television station WNET — Channel 13 (see here for details). Public television has a special exemption written into U.S. copyright law, such that they can show the film even when it’s still in copyright jail for everyone else. However, Nina Paley has made progress on finalizing contracts with the music composition copyright holders, and we believe we’ll be able to release the entire film by then. Since the New York showing will expose the film to a large new audience, when those people go to recommend it to all their friends, we want their friends to have an easy way to get it.

Note that free distribution really means free: you will be able to watch the film on your computer, make DVDs and distribute them, and hold public screenings (the film will circulate online in high-resolution formats appropriate for screenings). Your activities can be commercial or non-commercial, that’s up to you.

Our thanks to all who have donated so far to enable this experiment in decentralized distribution! But we can still use help: the rights clearance process — or rather, the “restrictions clearance” process — is not cheap. So if you’ve been considering donating to support Nina’s effort, here’s that link again.

Night of the Living Dead Business Model

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NYT article about corporate zombies here.

Oh, and also here! (thanks Tom Quinn!)

Larger poster image here (please copy).

Lloyd Kaufman Defines Media Consolidation

Lloyd Kaufman, Chairman of the IFTA, delivers a speech on media consolidation and the dangers it poses to independent art.

QuestionCopyright New York City meeting, Monday, Feb. 2

I will be at this meeting! questioncopyright.org:

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We’re holding a New York City area informational meeting on Monday. If you’d like to learn more about what we do and how you can get involved, please come!

We’ll focus on the Sita Distribution Project, and a couple of other exciting projects that are ready for more hands. Students, we’re open to offering credit if we can work it out with your school.


  • When: Monday, 2 February 2009, 6:30pm-8:30pm
  • Where: Software Freedom Law Center, 1995 Broadway, 17th floor (cross street is 68th; take [A,B,C,D,1] to 59th / Columbus Circle, or [1,2,3] to 72nd, or [1] to 66th; see map)
  • What: Learn about current QuestionCopyright.org projects and how you can get involved. Refreshments will be served.
  • Who: Nina Paley (artist in residence), Karl Fogel (editor), you and all your friends who want to do something about precambrian copyright restrictions.

If you know you’re coming, please let us know. It’s also okay to just show up at 6:30pm. If you’d like to come but that night doesn’t work for you, tell us — we’ll arrange to meet with you another time.

Sita on WNET-Channel 13

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Sita Sings the Blues is going to be broadcast on New York PBS station WNET Channel 13 on They haven’t chosen the exact date yet, but it will be sometime in March Saturday March 7 at 10:45pm on the series Reel13.

PBS enjoys a special privilege among broadcasters: they can legally broadcast music without having to clear individual master or synchronization licenses. That means even while Sita is in copyright jail, she can still legally air on PBS. WNET is hoping to be the first of many PBS affiliates to air the film. You can write or call your local PBS affiliate and ask them to broadcast Sita too!

WNET is our first experiment with Sita’s copyleft plan. Although the film isn’t free under copyleft yet (because I still haven’t received the promised contracts from the rightsholders, let alone raised the money), we’re acting in accordance to those principles already. WNET is making a voluntary payment equivalent to what they normally offer programs on Reel13. That’s $3,000, a third of which will be spent updating the credits and having a new HD master made to their specifications. They understand Sita is non-exclusive, and that any derivative works they make (such as subtitles) must also be open-content. But as long as bad copyright laws prohibit everyone else from broadcasting Sita, PBS gets exclusive access by default.

We’re still looking for donors and underwriters. Want to see your name on PBS? Here’s the credit breakdown:

  • $250 or more – Donor (small but legible font in end crawl)
  • $1,000 or more – Production Angel (larger font, sub-credit of your choice)
  • $10,000 or more – Executive Producer (largest font, sub-credit of your choice)
  • $50,000 or more – Sponsor: same as Executive Producer, plus I will modify the “intermission” to include your image/message as long as it complies with PBS’s rules (no soliciting). I can animate you or your product walking out for popcorn along with the “cast”! Or whatever you want.

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The credits lock Friday February 13. That’s exactly four weeks from today. After then, you can still donate (we hope you will!) but the tape will be locked for WNET.

Please donate here. Donations under $250 still gratefully appreciated, and all donor names (even the smallest) will be acknowledged in a special credits section on the official DVD, as well as the upcoming official web site.

Copyright and Film Criticism

Alienating film critics seems like a very bad move for Hollywood, but that’s not stopping them:

YouTube vs. Kevin B. Lee

“When the history of intellectual property law is written, January 12, 2009 should be marked as a decisive moment. It was the day that my friend, fellow House Next Door contributor and sometime filmmaking partner Kevin B. Lee saw his entire archive of critical video essays deleted by YouTube on grounds that his work violated copyright.” more…