Lessons Wrong and Right

From today’s ASIFA-SF Newsletter by Karl Cohen:

After interviewing Normand Roger about sound design and using original music, I became aware of somebody who chose to use prerecorded music without first clearing the rights to use it. It can be a costly mistake if you want your work seen by the public.

I asked a film distributor what are the person’s options about getting a film out without having all rights to the music cleared. He said, “They are screwed. Over and over filmmakers use music they should never use without getting the rights. The music owners now figure they have to pay whatever they ask. Or change the music. That is what must be done. Compose some original stuff. No distributor will take it on without proper music rights. Even if the filmmaker puts the work online for free they can be sued and brought down by the music owners. They need to go to Lawyers for the Arts.”

I don’t want the lesson others take from Sita to be “don’t do that!” My hope is that Sita shows that yes, you CAN do this. The film violates some immoral and unconstitutional laws, but it EXISTS. If I’d followed all the rules, the film would not exist. If you take a lesson from Sita, let it not be to fear creative expression; let it be that US copyright laws are broken. Don’t use it to teach fear; use it to teach that, with some courage, anything is possible in art.

All film classes, film professors and film “experts” are adamant about not working with any cultural artifact whose rights aren’t cleared in advance. Clearing rights is a byzantine and prohibitively expensive proposition out of reach of all but the wealthiest productions – poor independent artists are shut out of this “required” step. Nonetheless, people who should know better encourage budding artists to self censor; to crush their own ideas before they are born in fear of possible litigious consequences. Rick Prelinger of archive.org calls this “internalizing the permission culture,” and it is a sure way to stifle, if not kill, creativity.

I am outspoken about the wrongness of today’s copyright laws that keep so much American history out of the Public Domain, and other copyright laws that criminalize certain forms of speech (such as computer programming) and criminalize millions of Americans for sharing culture. I was aware that working with existing compositions – compositions that were supposed to be in the Public Domain in the mid-1980’s – could lead to hardships when the film was done. I’m not saying, “boo hoo, poor me, how could this have happened?” I’m blogging so much about Sita‘s legal situation because I want people to know what’s wrong with the laws. Big Media Corporations rely on peoples’ ignorance to continue pushing worse and worse bills through Congress.

An artist’s job is to make art. I understand that many people in “creative” fields like animation aren’t artists but craftsmen, and if their primary goal is to make money off their craft, then indeed they should be warned away from taking risks. But I want to appeal to the artists out there: be free. Start with your own mind. Your job is to make art, not self-censor. Others may try to censor you, threaten you, sue you, imprison you; but that is their sin, not yours. Please don’t commit these crimes against yourself. Let them do it if they must, but don’t assist them in your own oppression. Please stay free.

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Dear Apologists for Immoral and Unconstitutional Laws

Can you believe that lady? High ideals are all well and good, but she knew the rules. So unprofessional! She didn’t have to take that bus. If you don’t like the rules, don’t ride the bus. I’m an industry professional, and I give up my seat all the time – that’s what “professional” means. What if it were YOUR bus? You certainly wouldn’t want just any riff-raff riding it as they pleased. Plus if she’s so great, she should have raised $220,000 for skin-lightening cream – problem solved. Or buy her own bus! But no, she thinks she’s so special. What a whiner.

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Too bad people forget the story of Rosa Parks – but then it’s been hard to see the documentary Eyes on the Prize over the past decade, thanks to unconstitutional copyright laws.

Am I a Criminal?

Naturally I keep up on the latest grim developments in copyright law. The new Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, which unsurprisingly “is strongly backed by the music and movie industries,” would “(allow) for the Department of Justice to bring civil suits against IP infringers.

Continue reading Am I a Criminal?

A Fair(y) Use Tale

Watch this now. It’s absolutely brilliant. And it’s 100% animated!

Music Industry Killing Internet Radio, Sita Sings the Blues

First, read this:
Music Industry Killing Internet Radio.

Now read this:
Spreadsheet of what same Music Industry wants me to pay them (.xls).
View spreadsheet as html here.

Continue reading Music Industry Killing Internet Radio, Sita Sings the Blues

Meanwhile, at Michael Sporn’s Splog…

…there’s a long rambling and somewhat provocative guest blog by me about 2D animation vs. live action, and the rise of 3D CGI. The comments are taking my mind off bed bugs for a few minutes.

When I rule the world,

loud thumping techno music will be banned. Also all food will be eaten sitting down, not standing in a crowded room off a teensy disposable plate held in one hand and a drink in the other.

Other than that, I’m having a great time at Tribeca!

Avian Transportation Theory

Aaron Simpson pointed me to this excellent mock-trailer:

Originally found on RichardDawkins.net, it’s a parody of what looks like a truly dumb “Intelligent Design” PR piece.

You’ll notice there’s a little clip of my short film The Stork at the beginning. No, the producers didn’t ask for permission and no, that doesn’t bother me because yes, I enjoyed the piece so much I’m honored to be included (also the clip is really brief – blink and you might miss it). But hey Sexpelled producers – get in touch anyway, I like your style.
Continue reading Avian Transportation Theory

Denmark!

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UPDATE: confirmed screening dates:

Copenhagen:
March 30 Empire Bio 15.00
April 6 Cinemateque 19.30
plus:
Aarhus: April 2 Ost for Paradise 18.00
Odense: April 4 Cafe Biografen 16.00

Sita is going to the NATFILM FESTIVAL in Copenhagen! Word is she’ll screen Saturday March 29 (I’ll be there!) and Sunday April 6 Cinematque at the Filmhouse in Copenhagen, but I don’t know what times yet. I also just learned one of my favorite films ever, Loins of Punjab Presents, will be at the festival too. Sita, Loins and Denmark: it’s a dream come true.

There’s something queer about “Sita”…

…because, much to my delight and surprise, she was listed as a TEDDY film: the GayLesbianBisexualTransgender category at the Berlinale. Films were classified as follows:

G / g : Gay
L / l : Lesbian
T / t : Transgender
GS : Gender Studies / Role Models
C : Queer Context

Sita Sings the Blues is “C: Queer Context.” The film may not be specifically pro-gay, but it’s pretty anti-het. Or maybe the film, like me, is so utterly non-straight it has to be queer. Whatever the reason, I am thrilled: queer cinema on the whole tends to be much more interesting than mainstream. Thanks, Teddy people!

‘Tis the Season

to Resist Christmas! “No Shopping, No Presents, NO GUILT.” Also visit the Christmas Resistance Blog.

King Corn

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Go see this movie. If you’re in New York, you can catch it at Cinema Village this week. If you’re not in New York, ask your local rep house to get it.

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Go! I’m not just saying this because I grew up in corn country.

Politician reveals humanity

This is an exceptionally moving video. Via StayFree: San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders made an announcement last week regarding same-sex marriage. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to take 5 minutes right now and watch.

The Trap

Astute reader/luncher Andrew directs our attention to this very interesting BBC series, The Trap:

Above is episode two; see also episodes one and three.

Behold How History Is Written!

Very Similar to how sausages are made.