Read more at QuestionCopyright.org. Or continue reading here after the fold – the author, Karl Fogel, actually wants people to read his essay – imagine that! – and therefore grants permission for all to copy it.
From today’s ASIFA-SF Newsletter by Karl Cohen:
After interviewing Normand Roger about sound design and using original music, I became aware of somebody who chose to use prerecorded music without first clearing the rights to use it. It can be a costly mistake if you want your work seen by the public.
I asked a film distributor what are the persons options about getting a film out without having all rights to the music cleared. He said, They are screwed. Over and over filmmakers use music they should never use without getting the rights. The music owners now figure they have to pay whatever they ask. Or change the music. That is what must be done. Compose some original stuff. No distributor will take it on without proper music rights. Even if the filmmaker puts the work online for free they can be sued and brought down by the music owners. They need to go to Lawyers for the Arts.
I don’t want the lesson others take from Sita to be “don’t do that!” My hope is that Sita shows that yes, you CAN do this. The film violates some immoral and unconstitutional laws, but it EXISTS. If I’d followed all the rules, the film would not exist. If you take a lesson from Sita, let it not be to fear creative expression; let it be that US copyright laws are broken. Don’t use it to teach fear; use it to teach that, with some courage, anything is possible in art.
All film classes, film professors and film “experts” are adamant about not working with any cultural artifact whose rights aren’t cleared in advance. Clearing rights is a byzantine and prohibitively expensive proposition out of reach of all but the wealthiest productions – poor independent artists are shut out of this “required” step. Nonetheless, people who should know better encourage budding artists to self censor; to crush their own ideas before they are born in fear of possible litigious consequences. Rick Prelinger of archive.org calls this “internalizing the permission culture,” and it is a sure way to stifle, if not kill, creativity.
I am outspoken about the wrongness of today’s copyright laws that keep so much American history out of the Public Domain, and other copyright laws that criminalize certain forms of speech (such as computer programming) and criminalize millions of Americans for sharing culture. I was aware that working with existing compositions – compositions that were supposed to be in the Public Domain in the mid-1980’s – could lead to hardships when the film was done. I’m not saying, “boo hoo, poor me, how could this have happened?” I’m blogging so much about Sita‘s legal situation because I want people to know what’s wrong with the laws. Big Media Corporations rely on peoples’ ignorance to continue pushing worse and worse bills through Congress.
An artist’s job is to make art. I understand that many people in “creative” fields like animation aren’t artists but craftsmen, and if their primary goal is to make money off their craft, then indeed they should be warned away from taking risks. But I want to appeal to the artists out there: be free. Start with your own mind. Your job is to make art, not self-censor. Others may try to censor you, threaten you, sue you, imprison you; but that is their sin, not yours. Please don’t commit these crimes against yourself. Let them do it if they must, but don’t assist them in your own oppression. Please stay free.
Watch this now. It’s absolutely brilliant. And it’s 100% animated!
These last few weeks have been pretty awful. I am broke and homeless. Time I should be spending working on promoting my film – my only asset, my life’s work – has instead been consumed salvaging what I can from my apartment, bagging things in ziplocs, laundry laundry laundry, carrying stuff up and down and back and forth, throwing things out, calling exterminators, calling the landlord, calling friends, sleeping on a sofa, not sleeping on a sofa, taking showers and immediately changing into more ziploc-ed clothes, more laundry, wiping salvaged computer parts down with alcohol, weeping, talking to other tenants in my now-former building, confronting debt, canceling accounts, checking messages, begging for help, watching red bumps grow on my hands and arms (I have a delayed reaction to bed bug bites; it takes 9 days for the red welts to really blossom, then they linger a long time), reading bedbugger.com, reading craigslist housing ads, weeping some more, et cetera.
…there’s a long rambling and somewhat provocative guest blog by me about 2D animation vs. live action, and the rise of 3D CGI. The comments are taking my mind off bed bugs for a few minutes.
My short film The Stork went missing recently – in fact its entire host, clusterfunction.com, was alarmingly missing from the interwebs for a while. But it’s back now (whew!), and cluster-functional as ever. Nonetheless, here’s a link for another host, Channel13. (The clusterfunction link can always be accessed by clicking the little picture of a stork head on the right-hand column of this page. Click all the different pictures and see what happens!)
Channel13, like Frederator before them and every other corporate or commercial or just plain big web site wants me, the media creator, to direct my fans to their site for their benefit, throwing in a small bone – you can vote for my film, and if it wins it’ll be broadcast on Channel 13 next Saturday, and I’ll get $500. I can tell you that in spite of countless friends and family voting for the Sita Trailer, it failed to win the “Freddie Award” – meaning some other creator managed to send even more of their friends and family to the site (for free of course). So I’m not very optimistic about “winning,” and I’m pretty ambivalent about these contests, as they exploit small non-commercial fan communities. However, I want both the Sita Trailer and The Stork to be seen by as many people as possible, so I’ll continue to let bigger websites use them as hit-bait under the guise of a contest. I guess. Maybe.
Oh yeah, feel free to vote. Or not.
UPDATE: “Stork” didn’t win, but did lead for a while. Thanks to everyone who voted for it!