Am I a Criminal?

Naturally I keep up on the latest grim developments in copyright law. The new Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, which unsurprisingly “is strongly backed by the music and movie industries,” would “(allow) for the Department of Justice to bring civil suits against IP infringers.

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The Bright Side of the Dark Side of the Rainbow

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Here’s that Very Good Idea I promised yesterday. Please bear with this long post, it’s worth it I promise.

I.

Everyone’s heard of Dark Side of the Rainbow: You play your own legally-obtained audio of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, while watching a legally-obtained video of the Wizard of Oz. As long as the audio is legal, and the video is legal, enjoying them at the same time is legal.

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Sita Soundtrack Project

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With the help of old record collectors and Annette Hanshaw fans, I’m hoping to put together a free, easily-downloadable “soundtrack” of the 11 old Hanshaw songs in Sita Sings the Blues. The collectors will provide the tracks – MP3s probably – and I’ll provide the “album cover” and publicity.

Who wants to provide the server? We need a server to put all this on. Please contact me if you have some server space to donate.

This isn’t to make money, it’s to bring Hanshaw’s beautiful music to new eager ears for free. It’s also to publicize that all the effort in preserving and sharing Hanshaw’s voice has been on the part of record collectors, not the music industry.

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The new music in the film is the responsibility of its respective composers, who are busy artists like me and haven’t yet had time to organize an album. Hopefully we’ll have a soundtrack of their stuff for you eventually, but meanwhile you can sample their delights at their respective web sites:
Todd Michaelsen
MASALADOSA

Rohan
Nik Phelps and the Sprocket Ensemble
Rudresh Mahanthappa

Any volunteers want to produce an album of their “Sita” music? It’s like herding cats, but they’re all super-nice, just very busy, like me.

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Music Industry Killing Internet Radio, Sita Sings the Blues

First, read this:
Music Industry Killing Internet Radio.

Now read this:
Spreadsheet of what same Music Industry wants me to pay them (.xls).
View spreadsheet as html here.

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Information wants to be free, and so do I.

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My main goal with Sita Sings the Blues was always to have people see it, but the movie business makes that very difficult. I’ve been trying to go the movie biz route, really trying, with a sales rep and everything, but I’m about to throw in the towel. Distributors gain exclusive rights, and if they don’t exploit those rights competently, your film remains unseen (and for a little indie feature like mine, they offer to pay shit for those rights). Television actually pays very little for indies – about 1/6 what studio films get. Then there’s the problem that I can’t afford to sell my own film, due to the cost of officially clearing rights to the underlying compositions (the Hanshaw recordings aren’t protected by Federal Copyright law but the songs’ underlying compositions are still controlled by publishers and estates). I already owe $6,000 just for “festival rights” – the right to lose money sending the expensive prints to film festivals. To officially sell DVDs, I’ll need to purchase even more expensive rights – at prices designed for moneyed studios, not broke artists – and buy “E and O Insurance,” and doG knows what else. Yeah, yeah, I knew this going in, but I expected a distributor to pay for some of it. These costs are a pittance by studio standards, nothing at all really, but I’m still an “indie,” and no matter how many awards Sita wins, no distributor is going to spend real money on her.

I just want people to see the movie.

So last night I thought, maybe it’s time to investigate Plan C – giving it away for free. But how? Free online video like youtube is too low-quality, plus it’s not set up for feature-length works. I’m happy to give the film away for free, but I don’t want it to look like crap! There are higher-quality online venues like itunes, but those aren’t free. I’m pretty adamant about it being free, because

a) I can’t afford to sell it (see above)

b) no one should be denied viewing for lack of funds

c) I detest the movie business and their Digital Rights Management, and don’t want my film used to support their bullshit.

Yes, it would cost money to give Sita away – someone would have to donate a lot of server space and management. But it could be a worthy cause. Has anyone ever given away a really excellent, award-winning feature film online before? Maybe we could start a new trend. I’d ask for donations, of course – to me as an artist, not for the film – and there’s always merchandise, if the film gets really popular. I know many readers of this blog and fans of Sita are progressive, creative computer types. Any ideas? Any friends in high places who could help? I made Sita by ignoring the rules of filmmaking, I’d like to distribute her the same way. Information wants to be free, and so do I.

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