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.

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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.

Sita almost free!

Chris Carlson of Diamond Time sends this news:

“we are all approved across the boards with the exception of Memory
Lane Music, who only have a small piece of the song, Mean to Me.”

It will take many months to actually get the contracts from them, and I still need to raise about $45,000 to pay for this limited permission, but films are customarily released right after approvals; Sita Sings the Blues is more or less decriminalized at this point. So it’s time to release her! I have to update the credits and sound designer Greg Sextro is doing some final tweaking of the audio, but we’re hoping to have the film online and free under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License in about a month.

There’s a ton of work that needs to be done: web design, database set-ups, scanning documents, ideally having some ancillary products ready to go (who wants to make open-source merch? talk to us!),  an automated system to give credits to donors….much more work than I can do alone. We’re trying to build a new model for film distribution, one that respects the audience and rewards sharing and freedom. Want to help? Please come to QuestionCopyright.org’s open meeting this Monday February 2 at the Software Freedom Law Center in New York.

See also: Sita’s Distribution Plan.

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.