Laxmi Devi quilt

Here’s what I’ve been working on the past couple weeks:

Yep that’s “Laxmi” from Sita Sings the Blues. Cotton fabric, polyester batting, polyester thread. 52″ wide by 72″ high – twice as big as any of my 4 Elements panels. I might sew some shiny gold sequin things coming out of Her open hand to symbolize the gold coins that are often shown pouring out of it. Continue reading Laxmi Devi quilt

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Yes Means Yes

Please don’t ask my permission to re-use my work. YOU ALREADY HAVE PERMISSION. Please copy, share, re-use, redistribute, edit, modify, sell, etc.

Asking permission wastes your time, and mine. You might not mind wasting your time. Many people think asking for permission is a “sign of respect.” But what about my time?

Information (including all of my work) is not scarce. Attention (time) is.

Emails get lost in spam filters. They get lost amid the hundreds of other emails in my inbox. I’ve been known to take vacations and actually get away from my computer for a few days – something I should be doing more often. So what happens if you don’t get any response to your permission request? Do you not reuse the work? A work that has been explicitly made Free in the hopes you will reuse it? Not reusing the work harms the work, and harming a work is disrespectful. Delaying reusing the work likewise harms the work, in smaller increments.

Suppose a “respectful” email asking for permission which has already been explicitly granted doesn’t get caught in a spam filter or lost in some other glitch. Suppose it actualy makes it into my inbox. Now I am obligated to respond – the requester essentially said, “I’m not going to use this work unless you respond.” As “respectful” as this sounds, it places an unfair burden on me. The work, and any use of the work, should not be held hostage pending my checking and responding to email.

It is not “respectful” to make me do more, unnecessary work.

More importantly, asking permission is bad for the work itself. If you refuse to reuse the work unless I send you an email, you are blocking an expression or distribution of the work. How many days or weeks or months are you willing to put it off pending my ability to process email? Or worse, someone thinks it’s “respectful” to require me to sign papers and mail them back. Yes, this happens. I have such paperwork sitting right here, telling me that unless I sign it and mail it back, they won’t use the work they already have explicit permission to use. How is it “respectful” to make me jump through more hoops before they redistribute or remix a work I’ve made explicitly Free?

If you want to show respect, please send me something like this instead:

Dear Nina,

I thought you might like to know I’ve reused _________________  in _________________. Check it out at (insert URL here). Thanks for making the work Free!

Love,
Someone Who Understands Yes means Yes

Ahh, lovely. Thank you!

A complaint I hear often is that nowadays thanks to the inerwebs, not only do artists “have to give their work away for free” but they also “have to be businessmen.” HA! One goal of freeing my work is to free me of paperwork, contracts, and the role of manager – and what is having to oversee and administrate every re-use but management? In the “Intellectual Property” model, artists either have to do much more negotiating and managing and paperwork, or they have to pay someone else to do it for them. They have to be businessmen, or hire businessmen. And hiring businessmen (agents, lawyers, etc.) still requires much paperwork, negotiating, and contracts.

Some still insist that I’ve “maintained more control” over Sita Sings the Blues. The point is I have maintained no control over it, and that benefits me. The point is I don’t have to be a business(wo)man. The point is that other people, the crowd, distribute the work, and cost me nothing.

As long as they don’t ask for permission.

See you at BU – April 4 at 6pm

http://www.bu.edu/scriparts/calendar/Sita.jpg

I’ll be speaking at Boston University tomorrow (Monday April 4) evening at 6pm. Details here.

April 4 , 2011

SITA SINGS THE BLUES
Screening of the film and a conversation with filmmaker Nina Paley.

Boston University’s Program for Scripture and the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Distinguished Teaching Professorship welcome filmaker Nina Paley to Boston University. On April 4 we will present a showing of the groundbreaking animated film Sita Sings the Blues, followed by a conversation with the filmmaker.

Sita Sings the Blues was written, directed, produced and animated by American artist Paley, and weaves an autobiographical story with events from the Hindu scriptural text the Ramayana. The feature length film uses music, shadow puppets and novel animation techniques to re-imagine the artist’s experience through the lens of the god Rama’s wife, Sita.

Location: SMG Auditorium
Time/Date: April 4, 2011, 6pm

correction again, again

I’m reposting this (originally posted July 2009) for a third time, because misinformation continues to spread all over the interwebs. I should post it more often.

correction

Dear Journalists Dear Journalists, bloggers, commenters, etc.,

Some of you are writing that I was forced to choose the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license because the film is violating copyright. That is completely untrue, but has become the dominant motif of stories I read about the project. The confusion is understandable, so I attempt to sort it out below.

Sita Sings the Blues is 100% legal. I am free to release it commercially, which is why the film is gaining a number of commercial distributors in addition to its free sharing/audience distribution, which is also legal, and wonderful.

Sita Sings the Blues is in complete compliance with copyright regulations. I was forced to pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt.  My compliance with copyright law is by no means an endorsement of it. Being $70,000 in the hole reminds me daily what an ass the law is. The film is legal, and that legality gives me a higher moral ground to stamp my feet upon as I denounce the failure that is copyright.

Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

Note that in some ways the film is not, and never will be free. For each disc sold, distributors must pay $1.65 to these faceless money sinks.  Transaction costs raise that amount to about $2.00 per disc. That is why my own Artist’s Edition is limited to 4,999 copies. I’ve already bled $50,000 into their vampiric maws; I have no intention of paying more.

Thank you for your attention.

Love,

–Nina

San Franciscans: support the Red Vic Movie House!

I loves me a good local cinema that plays arty independent animation. When I lived in San Francisco, I loved the Red Vic, and I still love them all the way from New York.  Like most small art institutions, they need help paying the rent, which is why I and Shadow Distribution are donating all our proceeds from these Sita Sings the Blues screenings to the Red Vic.

Thursday December 23 at 7:15p & 9:15pm
Sunday December 26 at 2:00, 4:00, 7:15 & 9:15 pm

There’s nothing like seeing a movie on real film, in a real theater with other people. If you’re in San Francisco this week, go!

“Dhol Beat” – UNCENSORED!

I was working on Sita Sings the Blues when Manish Acharya asked me to animate the music video for Loins of Punjab Presents. I said yes because I loved his film so much. I’m so glad I did!

Sita Sings the Blues – Uncut Narrator Interview

I’ve wanted to share this uncut interview file for a long time now. The main reason I’ve held back is I wanted Aseem, Bhavana and Manish to listen to the whole thing and be comfortable with having it out in the world. As far as I know, none of them did listen to the whole thing. Still, Manish was worried that it might attract more negative attention from batshit fundamentalists. So, I held on to it…. Now Manish is gone and all we have left are our memories (mine is extremely fallible), and recordings like this one. At his memorial yesterday Chris Dillon played an excerpt, and said it was like having a new conversation with Manish. The batshit fundamentalists are batshit no matter what; whether we speak or are silent, they will hate. I don’t want fear of them to deprive anyone of a conversation with Manish. Plus, as you can hear, Manish was quite a respectful and thoughtful Hindu – moreso than the few clips in SSTB may have revealed. So here you go, World:

Sita Sings the Blues – uncut narrator interview

Grief Memory

RIP Manish Acharya

The brilliant director of Loins of Punjab Presents is no longer with us. I am shocked and heartbroken. He was a wonderful man – super intelligent, interested, warm, funny, talented, inspiring, always a pleasure to be around. My love to his family.

Manish’s voice was “Shadow Puppet #3″ in Sita Sings the Blues.

I’m still absorbing the shock. More when I get back from New Hampshire next week.

Sita on the Big Screen – Free! Monday

The Big Screen Project is a giant 30 ft. x 16.5 ft. HD screen located in a public plaza behind at 6th Avenue between 29th and 30th Street in New York City. They haven’t officially launched yet, but they have started screening films, including Sita Sings the Blues. Although they plan to screen Sita several times in the coming days, this Monday Nov. 22 will be special, because I will be there!

Mon., Nov.22 – 7:00-8:30 pm

For your listening pleasure, please go to the Food Parc, which is in the Eventi building on the street level between 29th and 30th on 6th Ave. Headsets will be available at the back of the Food Parc, where the doors are for going out on to the plaza.

Please come on by, it’ll be more fun if there are some Sita fans around. It’s free and open to the public, everyone is welcome (they’ll try to sell you food and drinks, but no purchase necessary). Audio is provided through FM headsets, supplied for free in the food hall/bar area adjoining the plaza. It’ll probably be cold outside, so I plan to watch indoors, through the gigantic plate glass windows, perhaps while nibbling something tasty. I’ll bring my merch bag, too, if anyone wants to buy DVDs and trinkets from the source.

Other planned screening times (I won’t be there):

Tonight (Nov. 17) from 9:00-10:30
Wed. Nov.24 – 10:30-12:00
Sun., Nov.28 – 8:30M-10:00AM
Sun., Nov.28 – 3:30-5:00

Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

Sita Soft SculptureThese aren’t dolls, or toys, or cushions – they’re SOFT SCULPTURES. Why? because regulatory capture means the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally call it a doll are beyond anything we could possibly afford.

ONLY 30 IN EXISTENCE! SIGNED AND NUMBERED. BUY ONE HERE FOR $50.

These limited edition soft sculptures were hand-appliqued, beaded, and embroidered in India by the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work; each unique piece is signed in embroidery by the woman who fashioned it. Because of the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally import them already stuffed, they were sent unstuffed to New York, where I and my colleagues lovingly stuffed each one with polyester fiber-fill and sewed them up by hand.

Bliss Blood, Bill Benzon and Karl Fogel help stuff and sew

That way, if calling them soft sculptures not dolls/toys/cushions, and including this “WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!” is not sufficient to avoid a lawsuit, it is I, Nina Paley, who will accept the liability, rather than Ubuntu at Work.

Stuffin' 'n' sewin'

While stuffing and sewing are exactly the sort of labor the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work desire, and do efficiently and well and affordably, regulatory capture of stuffed goods in the U.S. ensures they won’t get this work, and established legacy toy corporations with legal teams will hire slave labor to make corporate crap instead. Therefore this is a LIMITED EDITION of only 30 soft sculptures. Each one is also signed and numbered by me, Nina Paley.

Made of cotton fabric; cotton and polyester thread; small glass beads; polyester fiber fill. About 15″” tall.

WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!

Shahjahan, Mubeena, and Saiqa, who sewed, beaded and embroidered the shells, see me finish them. They're in Bangalore and I'm in New York. This evidence of our collaboration kind of blows my mind.

Continue reading Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

Frequently Asked Questions

Some numbers and slides from the Sita Distribution Report:

Continue reading Frequently Asked Questions

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

…and flattered I am!

k96m.jpg

♡ Copying is an act of love. Love is not subject to law.

Coming soon to the Bay Area

Heads up, California peeps! July 20 I’m hosting a screening of Sita Sings the Blues to benefit the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cartoon Art Museum.

Date:
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Address: Delancey Screening room
600 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94107


The next day, July 21, I’m returning to Santa Cruz for a screening of Sita at the Nickelodeon!

Special Screening and Q & A with Writer/Director Nina Paley
July 21st 7pm @ The Nickelodeon
210 Lincoln St.
Santa Cruz, CA (map)

Meanwhile the Cartoon Art Museum is having an exhibit of my work, Before Sita Sang the Blues: Spotlight on Nina Paley.

This retrospective will feature a selection of Paley’s syndicated comic strips,  illustrations, and a series of prints, paintings and behind-the-scenes materials from Sita.

See old gems like this:

I’ll be hanging around until early August. So if anyone in the Bay Area wants to hire me for speaking, now’s the time to save big!

Academics! “Sita” cited in Humanities paper

Cultural Evolution: A Vehicle For Cooperative Interaction Between The Sciences And The Humanities by William Benzon was just published at On The Human, a project of the National Humanities Center. The paper focuses on Cultural Evolution and uses Sita Sings the Blues as a primary example. For the next two weeks (until July 19) the comments are open to all. There’s a lot of Academese there, but I’m assured plain English is also acceptable.

Also from Bill Benzon: Sita Sings the Blues’ Agni Pariksha in context.

“Shiva” shirts

Now at the Merch Empire: