Frequently Asked Questions

Some numbers and slides from the Sita Distribution Report:

Hour-long video here.

Q. Who owns culture?

Who Owns Culture?

Q. How do you make money?

Q. How many people have seen Sita Sings the Blues?
A. I can’t know for sure, but as of today it’s been downloaded 258,744 times from, viewed 403,421 times at youtube (full movie) plus another 183,649 (installments); it’s been shared widely via torrents, screened at festivals and cinemas and libraries and classrooms, and otherwise copied all over the world. Googling “Sita Sings the Blues” today yields about 2,620,000 results. enjoys about 193,000 visits a month.

Q. How much have you received in donations so far?
A. About $50,000.

Q. How much have you received in profits from the Sita Merchandise Empire?
A. About $45,000 for me as of March 2010. The store opened in March 2009, so that represents one year’s income. The store grossed about $83,000 during that time.

Q. How much have you made from theatrical screenings?
A. About $9,000 for me. I estimate box office gross was about 8x that much, or approx. $72,000, but that’s a gross estimate.

Q. How much have you made from other DVD distributors?
A. About $6,000 so far, which represents a small portion of gross DVD sales from other distributors. Our own DVDs which we offer at the Sita Merchandise Empire are accounted as store income, above.

Q. How much have you made from broadcast?
A. Only about $4,000 so far. Most broadcasters’ legal departments can’t wrap their heads around an open licensed movie. Happily New York’s PBS Affiliate Channel 13 embraced it, as did Link TV. Broadcasters, please show the movie!

Q. How much have you received from voluntary payments from cinemas and festivals?
A. About $12,000. I don’t use copyright to compel payments, but many venues share revenue of out decency and a mission to support artists, rather than legal threats.

Q. What other income have you gotten from the film?
A. Amazingly, $12,500 in Awards money. It still boggles my mind.

Q. So how much money did you personally make releasing a Free film under an open ShareAlike license?
A. In the film’s first year, I got about $132,000. I’ve received more since then.

Q. How much did the movie cost you to make?
A. $270,000: a $200,000 budget plus $50,000 to license the old songs via a “step deal” sufficient to decriminalize it for Free sharing, and another $20,000 in bargain-basement legal transaction costs. So I’m not in the black yet, but I am no longer in debt.

Q. How much would you have made had the movie not been Free?
A. When I was still trying to sell conventional monopoly rights to distributors in 2008, the highest advance I was offered was $20,000; I was told by one reputable distributor that the most I could expect in my wildest dreams to make in a 10-year contract was $50,000, and more realistically I could expect about $25,000.

Vive la Revolution! Culture Libre

Watch the video:

Nina Paley at HOPE 2010 – entire talk from Nina Paley on Vimeo.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

5 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions”

  1. Thanks for this FAQ. When I tried to explain this to others prior to this I had to send links to various pages and videos — they had to be really interested. This will do wonders. Congrats on your continued success and thanks again for a wonderful film.

  2. Public Television in the US never has to pay music licenses.

    It’s not that WNET is so forward-thinking, they just don’t have to think about it at all.

    It is surprising to me that other public television stations haven’t broadcast the film. Maybe they just don’t have the programming infrastructure that Channel 13 has.

  3. I’m not sure if this question has been asked before, but are there any countries that are more copyright liberal in a way that it would have been easier for you to “release” the movie from that country?

    Like some European countries are havens for journalistic freedom, some for software freedom, etc.

  4. @Richard – no, it’s more than costs; other PBS stations, and broadcasters in general, find it a legal oddity because it is. They expect a rights deal, and there’s none to have. I offer Endorsements but they don’t know what those are. Legal departments are very easily confused; if they aren’t familiar with it, it doesn’t exist, as far as they’re concerned.

    @suede – © is international now, nowhere is safe. Maybe I could have released it on the Moon.

  5. i really enjoyed this movie. i hope u know u r awesome. I live in india and i dont have a paypal account but i wish somehow i cd contribute some money for all this hard work and creativity.

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