Mimi & Eunice

Many years ago, I thought “Mimi & Eunice” would be a great name for a comic strip. Recently I’ve been needing to do some drawing just to keep my head from exploding, so this week I figured, why not Mimi & Eunice?

As far as I can tell, Mimi & Eunice are two middle-aged children/baby psychos/heterosexual lesbians. That’s all I can surmise so far. Mimi&Eunice_01I didn’t put my name on these comics, but I did tag them with the URL mimiandeunice.com. (Unfortunately that site is a mess right now. Webmaster Ian installed the comicpress theme in wordpress, but it’s squishing the strips horizontally unless I make them really tiny. Also, even though it lets me bulk upload media, it doesn’t let me bulk post.

Mimi&Eunice_02So I’m just posting a bunch of them here, for now. If anyone out there makes great comics web sites and wants to make one Mimi & Eunice, please get in touch!)

Mimi&Eunice_03Other than getting mimiandeunice.com functional and pretty, I need to decide which license to release them under, or whether to use a license at all. So far copyleft, as embodied in the Creative Commons Share Alike license,  has served my work very well. But maybe I should go for Public Domain instead?Mimi&Eunice_04

If I use a license, it’ll be one of the 3 Free licenses Creative Commons offers:

CC-BY-SA (copyleft)

CC-BY (attribution)

CC-0 (Public Domain)


The advantage of copyleft is it ensures the work stays Free. Any derivatives must be released under the same terms, so no one can lock it up. It prevents abusive exploitation; no one can monopolize it. The drawback is that keeps it from being used in some projects that use more restrictive licenses. As nasty as restrictive licenses are, they’re still very common, and many worthy projects use them. You can still use a copyleft work within a larger copyrighted work as “Fair Use,” but few are willing to take that risk.


CC-BY (attribution) is compatible with both copyleft and copyright projects, which could conceivably allow the works to spread further. But it still relies on the threat of legal force to ensure attribution. As I wrote recently, attribution has limits that the law might not recognize. Also, I’m intrigued by avoiding legal enforcement as much as possible, and relying on social mores and  community ethics to ensure attribution. In fact I already do this with Sita Sings the Blues, but if I want to sue someone for plagiarism or improper attribution, I can. Is that threat really necessary?


Sometimes I think CC-0 (Public Domain) is the most spiritually advanced license. No legal claim to attribution. No legal claim to anything. To put a work in the Public Domain is to totally let it go. That is a turn-on.


Unfortunately many useful Public Domain works are snatched right out of the Public Domain via copyrighted “derivative works”. Take the comic above. If you changed the background color on panel 3 from reddish-gray to lime green, you could say you’ve made a new work and copyright the result. I don’t mind modifications like changing colors, in fact I encourage them; but I abhor monopolies, and the thought of someone then locking up the work in this way is troubling. Certainly the source would remain in the Public Domain. But if someone else modified the source in a similar way, being likewise inspired to change the color of panel 3 to lime green, they could be sued by the jackass that copyrighted his lime-green-panel-3’ed version.


Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is in the Public Domain, and technically you can still build on it. But if your “derivative work” too closely resembles Disney’s, they will sue your ass. The laws don’t recognize parallel evolution, nor do the tiny shriveled minds of the corporate executives who wrote them. Thus, although the exact text of Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland is PD, it’s no longer “free” to build on thanks to corporate monopolies on derivative works.


Much as I want to let go entirely, I fear that could be socially irresponsible. Which also why using no license at all is not really an option. In our world, everything is copyrighted, whether it displays the © symbol or not, whether it’s registered or not, whether it’s attributed or not.  Everything is “owned” by someone. Therefore unless something is very clearly marked as Free, it is assumed to be Owned. No license at all would make it impossible for would-be re-users to determine whether the work is legally safe to use.


A friend pointed out that the State gets into everything. Just because I don’t invoke repressive copy restrictions directly, doesn’t mean they don’t affect my work indirectly. Copyright affects everything, whether it’s copyrighted or not. Art is born free, but is everywhere in chains.


Another friend pointed out that my desire to “let go” is still desire. Choosing  CC-o/Public Domain to experience the thrill of “selflessness” may actually be more selfish than choosing strong copyleft.


I want my art to stay free. How to achieve that under our current copyright regime, is quite a dilemma.




Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

29 thoughts on “Mimi & Eunice”

  1. seems to me that cc-by-sa is the most “free” of the licenses (and much more free than no license at all, since by law that slaps a default copyright on all your work). with cc-by-sa, you’re perpetuating the spirit of freedom under which the work was created, by saying that one can only use your work if they also set it free.

    i don’t see how that would be limiting unless someone WANTED to copyright (the opposite of, “set free”) the work that they derived from yours.

    in a sense, going back to your genetics analogy, you’re saying that a child of the work can’t be made unless it carries some of the DNA of the parent with it (attribution to you, and sharing the work just as you shared it)…yes those genes will fade over time, but of all the licenses, it seems to serve the community best, in my mind.

    let’s say i wanted to make an animated cartoon using the characters mimi and eunice. i’d have to say: “these were created by nina. here’s her original stuff [link]. you’re free to use them in any way you want, just free your stuff likewise and attribute the work back to me.” – (unless i understand the law incorrectly) anyone who WANTED to unravel the DNA of 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. generations of work would eventually find that it does lead back to you.
    ..and it’d all be free.
    hooray for freedom!

  2. My vote is for the ShareAlike license. If someone wants to use the work in a more restrictive way, they can ask for you to relicense it and maybe pay for the privilege.

    I like the statement or symbolism of the SA license as a way of showing we believe in free culture, and it invites other people to let go also. You don’t have to ask for my permission if you only share your work in turn.

    (I like this post which is about CC licenses in general: http://hackervisions.org/?p=601. It doesn’t specifically get into one license over another…)

  3. At the risk of proliferating license-types:
    It sounds to me that you really want a CC-BY(Requested) kind of license — that is, a license which places no legal restrictions on distribution but which expresses the preference that it be attributed. Expressing your preference this way would only impose a social stigma — presumably, acceptable — on unattributed distribution. In the age of the internet, this may be enough.

  4. Would use CC-BY-SA so that your work stays free. As said earlier if someone wants to use it in any less-free way and are not sure what CC-BY-SA allows they only need to ask you. Also using cc-by-sa means that the idea of copyleft spreads along with your work and gets more people thinking about some of the issues around copyright.

    For a more permissive licence I’ve sometimes used WTFPL too.. it’s practically the same thing as CC0 but the language is strongly “I don’t care what you do with this” but I only use that for quick things that I don’t really care about. For anything I’ve put time or effort into it’s always cc-by-sa.

    I love these cartoons btw. Keep doing them!

  5. My opinion is “stick with By-SA”.

    It’s quite nice of you to let the work be used in “more restrictively licensed works.” But here’s the thing — anyone using those restrictive licenses has to get permission from everybody else’s work that they are using. So why not just let them come and ask you for additional permission? If they’ve already bought into “permission culture,” then they’ve acquiesced to that need anyway, and you won’t be adding much burden to them. (And if they are going to charge for access to your work, it would be entirely reasonable for you to expect a cut of that — if that’s what you want to do).

    For those who are happy with By-SA, though, they can just use it without asking.

    I’d be wary of PD-type licenses. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to enforce your By-SA, but I have had to do it before (some of my columns have been copied verbatim onto other blog sites, but with my name stripped from them — that just really ticks me off! I mean I’m not asking for a lot. I just want my name kept with it). Of course, a simple reminder is usually adequate, I’m unlikely to hire a lawyer for this. But even so, being able to say that it’s a legal requirement is motivational — it’s one way of setting the norm.

    I would also like to point out that if you’re really concerned about the long-run impact of your choice (what with copyright being forever, nowadays), you could use the delayed licensing approach that I detailed here:


    (The relevant bit is under the heading ‘“FLOW-IT” licensing’).

    Although my column talks about retiring NC and ND terms, you could just as easily retire By and SA terms by licensing first under CC By-SA and then CC 0.

  6. One thing to consider (which i don’t think I’ve seen mentioned yet) is use in commercial work, not necessarily derivative in nature, but let’s say passing use (like background music in a movie, for instance). What license ensures attribution and free / fair use but would not discourage inclusion in a commercial work? And I’m thinking in any given scenario they may or may not compensate you (if it’s for a $10,000 film they may not be able to offer anything much, for instance), but they would at least make attribution in the credits.
    I like the CC-BY-SA license but at surface value it seems like it would unnecessarily limit this; but I may be thinking about it wrong.

  7. I tried navigating the mimiandeunice.com site, but it only ever shows the most recent strip–moving around changes the title label, but not the picture displayed. That’s in both IE7 and Firefox 3.5.8.

  8. Drakar2007:

    The By-SA already allows us in a commercial work, provided that the commercial work is also released By-SA.

    For use in a non-free (i.e. copy-monopolized) commercial work, an additional private license can be requested, exactly as with any other work, with or without payment, according to the terms of the agreement.

    Anyone making a non-free work should be prepared to deal with other people’s non-free terms! Anything else would be hypocritical.

  9. My own preference is for cc-by, simply because that seems this seems to replicate what would otherwise be free-market behavior. No mandates on anyone but a convention towards attribution.

  10. @Terry: The simple fact of the matter is that attributed use in a larger commercial work (as opposed to some sort of derivation) is likely to be beneficial to the author of the copylefted material, whether they’re compensated or not. And in the case of, say, “big studio” movies, the idea of said work being released CC-BY-SA simply because it contains CC material is a little silly (even if it would be nice). What I’m thinking of is a license that makes it explicitly clear that the work MAY be used as an asset in a larger work, and that the only conditions necessarily implied by the license are attribution — even if compensation would be appreciated.

    CC-BY-SA seems to defeat this — if I were making a movie and would like to show a poster-sized ‘Sita’ frame in the background, in passing let’s say, I’m not sure CC-BY-SA would allow it. i’m not sure whether CC-BY is compliant with this or not, but maybe it is. CC-0 would comply, I think, but is unnecessarily unrestrictive (it seems not unreasonable for the author to assert rights, at least, of being credited for authorship).

  11. I understand the dilemma about the license, but I’m afraid I have no constructive comment.

    I did, however, want to note that I laughed out loud at several of the comics, shared one (with attribution) on a board I frequent, and saved another to my hard drive just for my personal future amusement. 🙂 Thanks.

    That third one, with the exploding head, really gave me a hoot. My ex-husband always seemed convinced that we have limited space in our head and if we fill our head with “useless” knowledge (useless being anything that doesn’t have an immediate, day to day, practical application), there might not be enough room in there for when you really need to learn something important and useful (like, say, driving a car with a standard transmission or something). 😉

  12. Hey Nina, don’t know if you’ll remember me (wife of Marty’s friend) but I wanted to let you know, in case you didn’t, that “Sita Sings the Blues” was reviewed over at “Dear Author” today, which is a tremendous bit of exposure! Congratulations.


  13. @Apuleius Platonicus God made the world with no laws asides his and then we add the copyright part to it.

  14. Hi Nina —

    Hey, I see by my email that you’re coming to Los Angeles, home of the most bizarre panel ever hosted by the American Cinematheque in its entire history (the behavior of one of your fellow panelists during the Films That Got Away q and a we did on animated shorts is literally still talked about). Is there any chance of seeing you while your here, or even getting you down to Loyola Marymount for a Q and A with some of our film production studios of a Tuesday night? I’d love to show them Sita, and I’d love to see you again.

    I also published a novel–you can read all about it at the indicated site.

    Forgive the public nature of this–my emails to you have been bouncing back to me.

    Congrats on the distribution, and keep in touch!

    Ray Greene

    PS – Love the new strip. If syndication still exists, it seems like a natural…

  15. Nina, I just wanted to say that these are brilliant!

    (the one that made me laugh the loudest is the first religious one. The ones that didn’t make me laugh are the “full colour spectrum”, “me-time” and “I’m already full”)

    Have you considered starting a ComicPress site for them, just so that there’s a single place for their fans to go to?

  16. A request – do you think you could make the comics on the website be no wider than 800 pixels? It’s wider than my desktop resolution… :p

  17. I love Mimi & Eunice too. Especially the spiritual amnesia one. No clue on the licensing issues, except to say that the Alice in Wonderland example is not so much a case of a derived work, but a case of Disney. If it was my derived work and Disney made something close to it, my law suit wouldn’t stand a chance.

  18. To put a work in the Public Domain is to totally let it go. That is a turn-on.

    Being turned on can be a good thing. 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *