Czech Myself Before I Wreck Myself

My “Make Art Not Law” talk is finally online!

Text and slides here.

Polish Czech translation and subtitles here.

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Make Art, Not Law

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Like millions of others who don’t give a rat’s ass about copyright, I hope you join me. Make Art, Not Law.

Intellectual Disobedience

A little talk I gave about Seder-Masochism-in-progress and Civil Disobedience at Brooklyn Law School’s “Legal Hackathon” several weeks ago.

Kids Today

This afternoon I gave a Sita Sings the Blues talk to a roomful of 15-to-17-year-olds. Near the end I explained Free Culture and my stance against copyright, which led to some interesting discussion. Turns out most of them are manga fans, and familiar with publishers’ complaints about scanned and translated manga shared freely online. They all read them anyway (except one, who prefers to read entire manga in the bookstore). I asked them how they would choose to support artists they liked (once they had some disposable income) and they said:

  1. Donate buttons – with the qualification that they want to know as much as possible about where the donation is going. They said honesty and transparency are important.
  2. Kickstarter – They all knew about it (which was notable because none of them had heard of Flattr) and valued pitch videos that explained how the money would be used.
  3. Custom drawings
  4. Merch
  5. Physical copies
  6. Live Shared Experiences, including ballet, museum exhibits, and concerts. The event aspect was important; they wanted to be able to say, “Remember that one time when that awesome show was here…” They agreed seeing things in person is a more powerful experience than seeing things online, and worth spending more on. One said she would buy CD at a live show because “it reminds you of the show.”
  7. One said he would support artists by promoting their work to his friends.

Semi-related, I took an informal poll of how many would prefer to read a book on paper vs. an e-reader. The vast majority said paper, but what they really seemed to want was dual formats: paper copies to read comfortably and collect, and digital copies to search and reference. Makes sense to me. Only two of them had iPads, and none used them for “enhanced eBooks.”

My favorite quote of the afternoon:

“We don’t want everything for free. We just want everything.”

 

How To Free Your Work video


Here at last is the video from my first How To Free Your Work workshop, given at NY Foundation for the Arts in Brooklyn, October 5 2011. You can get all the information contained herein as easy-to-read instructions at QuestionCopyright.org. If you want me to give a workshop like this to your group, please contact me.

How to Free Your Work

This Summer, I quietly and with no fanfare posted this guide to How to Free Your Work at QuestionCopyright.org. Nobody pays attention to anything in the Summer, but now it’s Fall, schools are in session, and things are happening, so consider this an announcement: How to Free Your Work is live and you should go check it out.

If you’d rather hear it live from the source, I’ll be giving a workshop on the same topic October 5th in Brooklyn. Register here.

Dear Iceland

Dear Iceland,

I really want to visit your country in early to mid October. A festival in Sweden has invited me to speak around October 14-16, and would like to make a stopover before or after or both. I am greatly intrigued by Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative*. Might there be some way I could speak at a university there, or at least meet Icelanders involved with media reform and free speech issues?

Love,

–Nina

*P.S. OK, not just the Modern Media Initiative. I’m also intrigued by your giant thermal pools.

The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa Close to Reykjavik, Iceland

Anyone need me in Berlin late June/early July?

Looks like I will be in Berlin for the Open Knowledge Conference June 30-July 1. If anyone wants me to speak/workshop/do a presentation in Berlin around that time, please contact me ASAP so I can plan my dates while plane tickets are still on sale I will be available July 2nd, going home July 3rd. Super speaking discount if you don’t have to pay for travel! (My usual exorbitant rates are here.)

See you at BU – April 4 at 6pm

http://www.bu.edu/scriparts/calendar/Sita.jpg

I’ll be speaking at Boston University tomorrow (Monday April 4) evening at 6pm. Details here.

April 4 , 2011

SITA SINGS THE BLUES
Screening of the film and a conversation with filmmaker Nina Paley.

Boston University’s Program for Scripture and the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Distinguished Teaching Professorship welcome filmaker Nina Paley to Boston University. On April 4 we will present a showing of the groundbreaking animated film Sita Sings the Blues, followed by a conversation with the filmmaker.

Sita Sings the Blues was written, directed, produced and animated by American artist Paley, and weaves an autobiographical story with events from the Hindu scriptural text the Ramayana. The feature length film uses music, shadow puppets and novel animation techniques to re-imagine the artist’s experience through the lens of the god Rama’s wife, Sita.

Location: SMG Auditorium
Time/Date: April 4, 2011, 6pm

I am awesome

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.

Friday (tomorrow!) March 4 at the Rubin Museum

I will be talking about Spirals: Fluid Dynamics in Tibetan Art, at the Rubin Museum’s “Artists on Art” series. We’ll look at a few paintings and a sculpture that have really cool spirally flames and clouds, and swirly water, and I’ll say intelligent things like, “Look! Spirals! Aren’t they neato?” Details:

Friday March 4, 6:15 pm
Program meets at the base of the spiral staircase.
Rubin Museum of Art
150 W. 17th St.
New York, NY 10011

And it’s FREE!

Off The Hook

Last night I was a guest on 2600’s Off the Hook hacker radio show. I start ranting about copyright about 1/4 of the way in, and keep going until the end. Listen here.

Me discussing VHEMT on Bloggingheads

This was recorded about 2 months ago. Today Bloggingheads finally posted it – SURPRISE! Now everyone who didn’t figure it out before will know that the nice lady who made SSTB is also in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Please, please watch the whole thing – you may be surprised.

Update: comments on this video inspired a Mimi & Eunice comic!

Excerpts from my HOPE talk

Excerpts from my talk “Sita Sings the Blues: a Free Culture Success Story” at The Next H.O.P.E. (Hackers On Planet Earth) conference, July 16 2010 in New York City. Includes: why I insisted on authentic songs, what is and is not property, software is culture, the difference between Share Alike (copyleft) and other Creative Commons licenses, why I paid to legally license the old songs, how noncommercial copyright infringement is still illegal, legal costs, benefits of audience sharing & decentralized distribution, the Sita Sings the Blues Merchandise Empire (sitasingstheblues.com/store), open-licensed merch, audience goodwill, how fans support artists, rivalrous vs. non-rivalrous goods, the Creator Endorsed Mark, migrating Flash files to open formats, gift income, commerce without monopolies, why I encourage legal sharing, and more!

Learn about the movie: http://sitasingstheblues.com/
Donate: http://questioncopyright.org/sita_dis…
Store: http://sitasingstheblues.com/store
HOPE: http://thenexthope.org/

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!