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.

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Sita on the Big Screen – Free! Monday

The Big Screen Project is a giant 30 ft. x 16.5 ft. HD screen located in a public plaza behind at 6th Avenue between 29th and 30th Street in New York City. They haven’t officially launched yet, but they have started screening films, including Sita Sings the Blues. Although they plan to screen Sita several times in the coming days, this Monday Nov. 22 will be special, because I will be there!

Mon., Nov.22 – 7:00-8:30 pm

For your listening pleasure, please go to the Food Parc, which is in the Eventi building on the street level between 29th and 30th on 6th Ave. Headsets will be available at the back of the Food Parc, where the doors are for going out on to the plaza.

Please come on by, it’ll be more fun if there are some Sita fans around. It’s free and open to the public, everyone is welcome (they’ll try to sell you food and drinks, but no purchase necessary). Audio is provided through FM headsets, supplied for free in the food hall/bar area adjoining the plaza. It’ll probably be cold outside, so I plan to watch indoors, through the gigantic plate glass windows, perhaps while nibbling something tasty. I’ll bring my merch bag, too, if anyone wants to buy DVDs and trinkets from the source.

Other planned screening times (I won’t be there):

Tonight (Nov. 17) from 9:00-10:30
Wed. Nov.24 – 10:30-12:00
Sun., Nov.28 – 8:30M-10:00AM
Sun., Nov.28 – 3:30-5:00

Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

Sita Soft SculptureThese aren’t dolls, or toys, or cushions – they’re SOFT SCULPTURES. Why? because regulatory capture means the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally call it a doll are beyond anything we could possibly afford.

ONLY 30 IN EXISTENCE! SIGNED AND NUMBERED. BUY ONE HERE FOR $50.

These limited edition soft sculptures were hand-appliqued, beaded, and embroidered in India by the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work; each unique piece is signed in embroidery by the woman who fashioned it. Because of the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally import them already stuffed, they were sent unstuffed to New York, where I and my colleagues lovingly stuffed each one with polyester fiber-fill and sewed them up by hand.

Bliss Blood, Bill Benzon and Karl Fogel help stuff and sew

That way, if calling them soft sculptures not dolls/toys/cushions, and including this “WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!” is not sufficient to avoid a lawsuit, it is I, Nina Paley, who will accept the liability, rather than Ubuntu at Work.

Stuffin' 'n' sewin'

While stuffing and sewing are exactly the sort of labor the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work desire, and do efficiently and well and affordably, regulatory capture of stuffed goods in the U.S. ensures they won’t get this work, and established legacy toy corporations with legal teams will hire slave labor to make corporate crap instead. Therefore this is a LIMITED EDITION of only 30 soft sculptures. Each one is also signed and numbered by me, Nina Paley.

Made of cotton fabric; cotton and polyester thread; small glass beads; polyester fiber fill. About 15″” tall.

WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!

Shahjahan, Mubeena, and Saiqa, who sewed, beaded and embroidered the shells, see me finish them. They're in Bangalore and I'm in New York. This evidence of our collaboration kind of blows my mind.

Continue reading Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

Frequently Asked Questions

Some numbers and slides from the Sita Distribution Report:

Continue reading Frequently Asked Questions

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

…and flattered I am!

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♡ Copying is an act of love. Love is not subject to law.

Coming soon to the Bay Area

Heads up, California peeps! July 20 I’m hosting a screening of Sita Sings the Blues to benefit the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cartoon Art Museum.

Date:
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Address: Delancey Screening room
600 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94107


The next day, July 21, I’m returning to Santa Cruz for a screening of Sita at the Nickelodeon!

Special Screening and Q & A with Writer/Director Nina Paley
July 21st 7pm @ The Nickelodeon
210 Lincoln St.
Santa Cruz, CA (map)

Meanwhile the Cartoon Art Museum is having an exhibit of my work, Before Sita Sang the Blues: Spotlight on Nina Paley.

This retrospective will feature a selection of Paley’s syndicated comic strips,  illustrations, and a series of prints, paintings and behind-the-scenes materials from Sita.

See old gems like this:

I’ll be hanging around until early August. So if anyone in the Bay Area wants to hire me for speaking, now’s the time to save big!

Academics! “Sita” cited in Humanities paper

Cultural Evolution: A Vehicle For Cooperative Interaction Between The Sciences And The Humanities by William Benzon was just published at On The Human, a project of the National Humanities Center. The paper focuses on Cultural Evolution and uses Sita Sings the Blues as a primary example. For the next two weeks (until July 19) the comments are open to all. There’s a lot of Academese there, but I’m assured plain English is also acceptable.

Also from Bill Benzon: Sita Sings the Blues’ Agni Pariksha in context.

“Shiva” shirts

Now at the Merch Empire:

Sita in Brooklyn this Thursday July 1st

I’ll be there, along with über-talented collaborators Todd Michaelsen and Reena Shah!

The Observatory
No. 543 Union St.
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Date: Thursday, July 1st
Time: 7:30 PM Musical Performance by Todd Michaelsen and Reena Shah of My Pet Dragon
8pm:
Film screening/Q & A
Complimentary bags of popcorn will be served while supplies last
Admission: $5
Day Four of The Oxberry Pegs Series

Sita T-shirts: help me choose colors

Funny how I have all these Sita Sings the Blues T-shirts, but none with a picture of just Sita herself. I want to remedy that. The question is, what color should the “Sita” shirt blank be? Colors I’m considering are: black, pink (“raspberry,” according to the Bella shirt co.), or creamish-tan. Which color should I choose?

As always, click the thumbnails to see larger images. Also: I put the “Sita Sings the Blues” logo on this design, but I don’t have to. Would you rather have a shirt with the logo, or without? So far none of the shirts I sell have the logo anywhere, making them kind of artsy and mysterious. Should I continue that trend?

Here’s the design superimposed on the photo of a model wearing the Bella scoopneck “raspberry” colored shirt:

In related merch news, I’m finally going to produce some “Shiva Natraj” shirts. These will be blingy gold foil on beautiful shades of purple that I know are awesome: women’s “currant” and men’s “eggplant.”

But do please help me choose a fabric color for the “Sita” shirt. Thanks!

What’s wrong with “streaming” DRM?

Judging from comments here, at Techdirt, and at BoingBoing, there seems to be much confusion about why I don’t want DRM on Sita Sings the Blues. The simplest explanation is this: I am making my film available to all under an open license. Allowing a party to take the benefit of that license, but then limit the rights of downstream users is inconsistent and frustrates the original purpose of the open license — to promote and facilitate access and use of the work.

Some people seem to think DRM is irrelevant on “streaming content.” I was one of them, which is why I was initially so indecisive about the Netflix streaming offer. DRM encourages people to think of certain liberties as being impossible, rather than merely taken away. Already many people think that “streaming” means “cannot be saved on my computer,” instead of “optimized for real-time flow”.  People make this false equation entirely because of user-side DRM.

So along with its other problems, DRM is a kind of anti-literacy device for the digital age.  The more hobbled people’s phones and computers and music players get, the harder it is to remember what it was like when those devices served their users rather than the monopolists. The more deeply embedded DRM becomes, the more its restrictions will come to feel like “just the way things are”, rather than an impediment that could conceivably be removed or worked around.

I respectfully submit a typical comment:

Its not a download or purchase , its “Free Streaming” . From my Roku box to my tv why should you or I care if it has drm.

This is a perfect example of the kind of illiteracy mentioned above. “…we’re talking about a stream, which by definition is not saved on your computer”.  This commenter and others have bought the industry’s definition of “stream”, even though there’s nothing inherent in streaming that prevents saving. I can’t blame them; until last week, I didn’t think about what “streaming” meant either.

Here’s another typical comment:

You’re obviously making a symbolic stand here. That’s fine. But please at least be honest about that instead of claiming that Netflix streaming is “breaking” my home electronics. My computer and my Xbox work just fine and my rights have not been violated in any tangible or meaningful way.

If data is sent to your computer, and yet your computer won’t let you save that data, than an important function of your computer has been interfered with.  Who does your computer work for, anyway, you or them? It’s not just a hypothetical breakage, either.  For example, if you wanted to divide the same incoming stream to two different computers in your house, similarly to how a “Y” pipe would do with water, Netflix DRM will prevent that.  Normally, your computer could do that just fine, but not when it’s broken.

If the quibble is with the word “broken,” we can use the less-inflammatory word “disabled,” although people are eager to forget that “disabling” a computer means “breaking it in increments.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

My rejection of DRM is not a condemnation of Netflix (I like Netflix!) nor of those who use this very convenient service. I made this difficult decision as the author of Sita Sings the Blues. The only reason Netflix has DRM on its streams is because of pressure from the “content industry.” Well guess what – I am the content industry too, and I say no to DRM.

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Thanks to Karl Fogel for contributing to this article.

Turning down Netflix

Sita Sing the Blues has a few Endorsed DVD distributors. In addition to QuestionCopyright.org and myself, there’s FilmKaravan, a distribution collective that handles “downstream” deals with VistaIndia and IndiePix. Their distributions are on amazon.com (I get a much smaller percentage from those than from my DVDs, but they reach a much wider market) and Netflix.

In addition to physical DVD rentals, Netflix offers subscribers instant electronic delivery: streaming movies over the Internet to Mac, PC, Wii, PS3 and Xbox players. Many subscribers conveniently find new titles through this service. It’s just the sort of distribution channel that benefits a small film like Sita. They also pay producers, and don’t demand exclusivity. It’s a good deal all around, except for one problem: DRM.

DRM, or Digital Restrictions Management, is technology “to control use of digital media by preventing access, copying or conversion to other formats by end users.” At best DRM reduces the functionality of computers; at worst it invades privacy and adds surveillance and malware. DRM End User License Agreements (EULAs) force users to surrender rights well beyond what copyright restricts.

In the last few years DRM has grown increasingly pervasive, with little-to-no press coverage. Consumers passively accept it, as proven by Apple’s new “everything-DRM” device, the iPad.

Creators, too, are accepting DRM as a fact of media distribution; offered no alternatives, they lose their ability to even imagine alternatives. DRM, like rights monopolies, is said to be made for creators. But like copyright, DRM is designed to benefit Big Media conglomerates, not artists.

If this type of invasion of privacy were coming from any other source, it would not be tolerated. That it is the media and technology companies leading the way, does not make it benign. (link)

A few weeks ago a content aggregator called Victory Multimedia contacted FilmKaravan:

Netflix has shown interest in carrying your title “Sita Sings the Blues” for Electronic Delivery.  For a 12 month license period they are offering $4,620.00.  You would received $2310.00 no later than 60 days after the Netflix title release date and the balance of $2310.00 will be paid 6 months after the initial payment.

First I asked (Filmkaravan to ask the aggregator to ask Netflix) if Netflix could make a DRM exception for Sita. Unfortunately no such option currently exists in Netflix’s electronic delivery system. Possibly no other filmmakers have even asked for such an option. iTunes used to offer only DRM music, but eventually enough people – including savvy “content providers”? -  demanded DRM-free channels that they now offer DRM-free music for sale along with Defective options (all iTunes movies carry DRM). Filmmakers lag far beyond musicians in understanding the Internet, so it may be a while before Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and other online distributors allow our “content” in their channels without adding malware and spyware to our films.

I still wanted Sita to be in Netflix’s on-demand system. I want as many people to see Sita as possible; surely many viewers now rely on such a convenient delivery system to explore new films. Anyone who became a fan of Sita this way might still find the film’s web site, and learn how to download a free copy for themselves. Although Sita’s site states:

You are not free to copy-restrict (“copyright”) or attach Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to Sita Sings the Blues or its derivative works.

I could still grant special permission to Netflix to add DRM to Sita. I asked if I could add a card to the front of the movie stating simply:

Download and share this film from:

sitasingstheblues.com

The aggregator responded this was not possible, due to a Netflix “no bumpers” policy.

Looking back, I was conflicted because it was hard for me to see the DRM on Netflix’s streaming service as problematic. It’s not as though Netflix is telling anyone they’re “buying” the movies they stream; they’re just “renting” them. “Rental” already implies restrictions and limited use terms. They’re just trying to make the Internet work like the physical world, imposing artificial scarcities to resemble the natural scarcities of physical DVD rentals. We can accept natural scarcities; why not accept artificial ones?

I was so conflicted, I asked my “Facebook friends” for advice. Responses were pretty split. Only a few knew what DRM was, but understood I could be compromising my principles by endorsing its use. Was that compromise significant? Was it time to “rise above my principles”?

Facebook, being a walled garden whose “business model is spying,” is problematic itself; obviously I use it anyway, although I don’t expect it to be around in a few years unless it opens up. Two of my moral guidestars don’t use it out of principle, and I emailed them for advice. Richard Stallman wrote,

I faced the same sort of question today: whether to approve release of my biuography with DRM for the iBad. I said no, because the fight against DRM is my cause, and the iBad is the most extreme attack against computer users’ freedom today.

It is self-defeating to try to promote a cause by supporting a direct attack against it.  Lesser forms of participation in things that you hope to eliminate can be overlooked, but Netflix is something we must specifically fight.  The example you would set by giving in would undermine everything….

We launched an action against Netflix.  We tell people, “Don’t be customers of Netflix.”

So I learned Netflix DRM was “real” DRM, rental or not. DefectiveByDesign.org asks people who rent physical DVDs from Netflix, to protest their DRM-laden electronic delivery service.

It was John Gilmore’s email that hit me where I live:

Don’t post your film via a DRM service.

Insist that Netflix is free to release it without DRM, but they cannot release it with DRM.

Creators keep knuckling under to these media middlemen who push DRM onto end users for their own lock-in reasons.  Like Apple. Like CDbaby.

It will take pushback from creators to change this.  Be the change that you want to see….

I’ve been the “change I want to see” in regards to copyright monopolies. People told me I’d lose everything by copylefting Sita, including all hope of professional distribution. But in fact, some professional distributors became willing to distribute Sita without claiming monopolies over it, and we’re all fine.

I’d still love Sita to be offered through Netflix’s online channels; if they ever offer DRM-free video-on-demand, I hope they remember Sita Sings the Blues.

For now, people will just have to obtain Sita by visiting the vast big Internet outside of Netflix. Most of the Internet still isn’t enclosed by Netflix, or Amazon, or iTunes. Most of the Internet is still Free; I’m doing what little I can to keep it that way. I’m sad to lose the potential viewers who may have found Sita through Netflix’s electronic delivery. But maybe some of those Netflix subscribers will discover the rest of the Internet because of my tiny act of resisting DRM.

New Merch at the Merch Empire!

Sita_Bag_magenta_640Handmade silk bags by Ubuntu@Work!
yhst-20024741711964_2100_6906620Laxmi Pins and Necklaces!

Laxmi_shirt_currantWomen’s Laxmi shirts in “currant”

yhst-20024741711964_2103_290972Stainless steel water bottles!

And lots of other men’s and women’s shirts, DVDs and CDs, and accessories for your scarce-goods-consuming pleasure.

Sita in L.A.!

Sita in LA

Angelinos! SITA SINGS THE BLUES comes to LA for a 1-week engagement on 4/23 at:

The Laemmle Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, Ca 90211
tel: 310-478-3836


Sita #1 rated film on Rotten Tomatoes

Sita Sings the Blues is Rotten Tomatoes’ best-reviewed film of the year. Today, anyway. To preserve this precious moment, I took a screen shot.

RT_best_of_Closeup