I envisioned This Land Is Mine as the last scene of my potential-possible-maybe- feature film, Seder-Masochism, but it’s the first (and so far only) scene I’ve animated. As the Bible says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Mamluk of Egypt
Wikipedia sez, “Over time, mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies…In places such as Egypt from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be “true lords”, with social status above freeborn Muslims.” And apparently they controlled Palestine for a while.
Did I mention this is a cartoon? Probably no one went to battle looking like this. But big turbans, rich clothing and jewelry seemed to be in vogue among Ottoman Turkish elites, according to paintings I found on the Internet.
A gross generalization of a generic 19-century “Arab”.
The British formed alliances with Arabs, then occupied Palestine. This cartoon is an oversimplification, and uses this British caricature as a stand-in for Europeans in general.
The British occupied this guy’s land, only to leave it to a vast influx of….
Desperate and traumatized survivors of European pogroms and death camps, Jewish Zionist settlers were ready to fight to the death for a place to call home, but…
State of Israel Backed by “the West,” especially the US, they got lots of weapons and the only sanctioned nukes in the region.
Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist Sometimes people fight in military uniforms, sometimes they don’t. Creeping up alongside are illicit nukes possibly from Iran or elsewhere in the region. Who’s Next?
The Angel of Death
The real hero of the Old Testament, and right now too.
Note: If you want to support this project, please notice I have Paypal and Flattr buttons. TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donations accepted via the nonprofit QuestionCopyright.org.
With all the false copyright claims happening on Youtube, I’m lately asking myself why I use it at all. I guess the main reason is the Network Effect: Youtube is the most popular video host, so that’s where most people go to find videos. If my vids aren’t on Youtube, there’s a chance they won’t be found.
But I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason, in light of all the Content ID abuse. Thanks to Brewster’s comment yesterday, I’m embedding archive.org video below. If this works, it’ll be an ideal alternative.
Another alternative to Youtube is Vimeo. I’ve had problems with Vimeo’s speed, and have embedded videos fail to load. But maybe those problems will resolve.
A bonus feature of both of these: they don’t seem to use Flash (which my current Chrome browser doesn’t support anyway).
Anyone care to comment on the quality of the archive.org and vimeo embeds above?
Youtube has been so rife with Content ID abuse – including multiple false claims on our Free Culture anthem, Copying Is Not Theft – I decided to try a Chinese video host. I’m embedding it here just to test how it works. So far the audio seems a little out of synch – anyone else getting that? Comments welcome below.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
If anyone needs to download Sita Sings the Blues or copy Mimi & Eunice or anything from any of my web sites, including this blog, do it now because they’re all going dark for 24 hours in protest of SOPA/PIPA and the lobbyists and bought politicians who wrote them and will write the next stupid bills attempting to break the internet even after SOPA and PIPA “die” only to be resurrected zombie-like under new stupid acronyms.
Although I’ll truly miss Wikipedia while it’s down tomorrow, maybe I’ll use the time to get some actual animation done instead of just “research.”
Over at Techdirt.com, pro-SOPA/PIPA commenters continue to call copying “theft.” Since their main argument for breaking the Internet is fundamentally erroneous, now seems like a good time to re-post this riposte:
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.
You know what should be really easy to find online? Good quality, Public Domain vintage illustrations. You know, things like this:
I found this on Flickr, where someone claims full copyright on it. That’s copyfraud, but understandable because Flickr’s default license is full copyright (all the more reason to ignore copyright notices!). But copyfraud is not the main problem. The main problem is that images like this are painfully difficult to find online, especially at high resolutions (and this image is only available at medium resolution – up to 604 pixels high, which is barely usable for most purposes but higher than much of what you find online).
The images are out there – and with zillions of antique books being scanned, their vintage illustrations are being scanned right along with them. But the images are buried in the text, and often the scan quality is poor. Images should be scanned at high quality, and tagged for searchability.
Are archives ignoring the value of images?
Take the American Memory archive of the Library of Congress. Lots and lots of historical documents here, but no way for me to find an image of, say, a horse.
Most book–scanning projects focus on texts, not illustrations. Many interesting and useful illustrations are buried within these scans, uncatalogued and inaccessible. Scan quality is set for text, not illustrations, so even if one can find a choice illustration buried within, its quality is usually too low to use.
Archive.org is great (I love you, archive.org!) but does not have an image archive. Still images are not among their “Media Types” (which consist of Moving Images, Texts, Audio, Software, and Education). So I went spelunking through their texts, starting with “American Libraries,” and searched for something easy: “horse.” Surely I could find a nice usable etching of a horse in there somewhere. I eventually found “The Harness Horse” by Sir Walter Gilbey, from 1898.
Nice illustrations! Can I use them? Unfortunately, no. The book is downloadable as PDF and various e-publication formats, but when I try to extract the illustrations, I get a mess:
Copied and pasted from Adobe Acrobat. WTF?
The same image, inverted. Doesn't work.
"Save Image as..." from Acobat. This worked, except where it didn't: part of the image is simply missing.
Clearly something is messed up here. Was it just that page? Alas, no:
This sad image from another page has the same problem
The scans have some flaws that PDFs and Photoshop can’t cope with:
Screen grab of zoomed-in view from Acrobat. What looks like a blur in the PDF renders the image unusable when extracted.
These images are not useable, which is a pity because they are very nice illustrations. And they seem to be among the higher quality scans, which again isn’t saying much.
Let me add that it’s great these books are being scanned at all! That’s definitely better than losing them entirely. But as an artist, it saddens me that we’re neglecting this wealth of visual art. I’d like to see our rich visual history properly archived. Our bias favoring text over pictures is especially ironic considering how much more efficiently information is communicated to humans through images; “A picture is worth a thousand words,” or more. That’s why I’m a cartoonist, after all.
I was able to extract one clean image from the book, on page 48:
Unfortunately I can’t use this illustration for my purposes, but maybe someone else can. I’ve already gone through the trouble of finding it in a text, extracting it, and rotating it. If only there were some image archive I could upload it to at high resolution, so someone else could use it. I could tag it, to make it easier to find. I could include all kinds of useful metadata, like what book it was from and when it was published; but even if that was too bothersome, I could at least include tags like “horse,” “rider” and “engraving.” Wouldn’t it be nice if such an archive existed? Wikimedia Commons is close, although I dread uploading things there after having all my open-licensed comics deleted by an overzealous editor. But maybe they’re our best hope.
Continuing my searches on archive.org, I found this ostensibly Public Domain, vintage horse book with line illustrations. Unfortunately this is controlled by Google Books. It’s “free” to read online in Google’s reader, which doesn’t allow any image export. It also doesn’t allow me to zoom in.
All those illustrations, trapped at low resolution, unusable (even if they were tagged/catalogued, which they aren’t). This is our “Public Domain.” Who exactly is benefitting from having these 18th Century illustrations inaccessible to today’s artists?
Then there’s Dover Books. I loved Dover books growing up – they introduced me to the idea of the Public Domain. Dover reproduces vintage illustrations in books for artists and designers. Their paper books were reasonably priced, and you could use the illustrations for anything, without restriction. Browsing was free, so I would flip through the pages in the book store, and if it had what I needed, I’d buy it.
Dover is still selling books, but the prices are now relatively high, few are carried in bookstores, and they prohibit browsing online. You have to shell out $15 to find out if what you need is in the book, and how could you know? They seem to be clinging to an outdated copyright model, and rather than selling things of added value, they are simply blocking access to existing Public Domain works, in order to collect a toll.
What else has kept a good public archive of Public Domain images from existing? Some artists and archivists do make high quality scans of vintage illustrations – and keep them to themselves. I guess we could call this “image hoarding.” I assume the reasoning is, “I went through all the trouble to scan it, why should I share? Others can pay me if they want a copy.” Also there’s the “finders, keepers” reasoning: “anyone else is free to find the same illustration in another antique book, but I found this one, so it’s mine.” And so these images remain inaccessible, not part of any public archive.
Wikimedia Commons is the best public image archive I know of right now. A bit of searching led me to their “Engravings of Horses” category, which yielded some nice images. Unfortunately, many of these are not available at sufficiently high resolutions.
The maximum size of this image is 800 × 608 pixels, which limits its use. Limited image sizes and limited selection have been the biggest obstacles to my relying more on Wikimedia Commons; but it can get better. Maybe it will. It would be nice if something became the public vintage image archive I and so many other artists need.
OK, I need a new web master. My current one is too overwhelmed to fix all the problems Media Temple has been causing, and move me to a new host. I put all my work out for free, and generate no direct income from my sites (no ads) but they are necessary for the Free Culture I so espouse. Anyone want to donate web mastering/tech help to Sita Sings the Blues, Mimi & Eunice, and ninapaley.com? Help me move and I’ll buy you a pizza….
The Public Domain may not be growing (thanks to endless retroactive copyright term extensions) but it still contains a “whopping plentitude.” The biggest challenge to users is simply discovering PD works in the first place. Fortunately the Open Knowledge Foundation (one of the best Free Culture organizations anywhere) has just given everyone a leg up with its new web site, the Public Domain Review. From their About page:
The Public Domain Review aspires to become a bounteous gateway into the whopping plenitude that is the public domain, helping our readers to explore this rich terrain by surfacing unusual and obscure works, and offering fresh reflections and unfamiliar angles on material which is more well known.
Go there to find all kinds of delicious images, texts, sounds, and other treasures that, thanks to our collective cultural amnesia, are as fresh and exciting as anything Big Media tries forcing down our throats today.
After one or two (or more?) years of being blocked on German Youtube, the full-length noncommercial Sita Sings the Blues movie is once again viewable in Deutschland:
I assume this is because last week I posted this video, complaining about why my 100% legal and painstakingly and expensively licensed movie was blocked in Germany:
Apparently many Germans are none too pleased with GEMA themselves, as indicated by interesting comments here. Some industry shills weighed in as well, but it looks like popular sentiment is against them. The story was shared widely, including in Der Spiegel and the New York Times online editions.
It’s not clear how an American YouTube user is supposed to contest takedowns in Germany. When I was in Berlin recently, it was suggested I find a German lawyer to take some sort of action. At the very least, I would need someone in Germany to contest the takedown on my behalf. I imagine that would have been a slow and possibly expensive process. Then I thought of making this video. Although it took some work (writing a statement – yes I know it’s an imperfect statement, I did the best I could with the knowledge I had – shooting the video, recording the audio via a separate mic, transferring files, editing, compressing, etc.) it was less work than managing an international legal process. And it got results fast! Better still, it contributed to ongoing debates about GEMA and Intellectual Pooperty in general.
My thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about this, and especially people in Germany who checked the Sita Sings the Blues URL and confirmed when the movie was blocked, and when it was unblocked.