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Make Art, Not Law

from the yet-another-interview dept

Crossposted from Questioncopyright.org

Nina Paley looking jazzy

Photo by Ravi Swami, London UK

QCO Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley’s interview with at Baixa Cultura, conducted by email with journalist and photographer André Solnik. The English below is the original; Baixa Cultura translated Nina’s answers.

1. When your interest on free culture has begun?

For a long time I thought copyright terms were too long and the law could use reform, but I didn’t really understand Free Culture until October 2008, after months on the film festival circuit with my then-illegal feature Sita Sings the Blues. Free Culture was too audacious a concept for me to think about clearly until then. One morning I finally got it — freeing my work would be better for the work — and I spent the next half-year preparing for a Free, legal release of SSTB. That finally happened in March 2009, when I finally cleared all the necessary (and bullshit) licenses at a cost of about $70,000 to myself.

2. Tell me in short why artists should free their work. Is it a good choice for both renowned and new artists?

From my article How To Free Your Work:

Why should you Free your work? To make it as easy as possible for people to share your work — as easy as possible for your work to reach eyeballs and ears and minds — to reach an audience. And to make it as easy as possible for audience support — including money — to reach you…. Copy restrictionsplace a barrier between you, the artist, and most forms of support. By removing the barriers of copyright, you make it possible to receive money and other kinds of support from your audience, both directly and through distributors, thereby increasing your chances of success.

3. Creative Commons has recently released the final draft of the version 4.0 of its licenses. What changes would you like to see? Do you think CC should keep on supporting the nonfree licenses?

Yes, CC should stop supporting the non-free licenses. What kind of “commons” is that?

4. Although they are probably the most known alternatives to more restrictive ones, they still remain unpopular compared to the “all rights reserved“. Why is that? Do you reckon people get confused by the many possibilities given by the CC licenses?

Most people who use CC licenses don’t understand what the different licenses mean; they just call all of them “Creative Commons” as if that means anything. CC’s modular system was a good idea, I see it as an experiment that was worth doing. But the results are in: it didn’t work. What we have now are a mess of incompatible licenses, most of which fail to contribute to any real “commons,” and an increase of confusion and misinformation.

You can’t really blame Creative Commons though — the problem is copyright law. Nothing can fix it at this point. Even CC-0, a valorous attempt to opt out of copyright, doesn’t work in practice, as my experience with the Film Board of Canada showed — even after placing SSTB under CC-0, their lawyers refused to accept it was really Public Domain, and made me sign a release anyway, just to allow one of their filmmakers to refer to it. I will be saddled forever with permissions paperwork even with CC-0. I’ll probably keep using CC-0, of course, but I have no expectation it will work as it’s supposed to.

5. The BY-NC-SA license, although nonfree, it’s pretty popular. Why do you think so? What are the main issues about licensing a work using it?

People are high-minded when they choose the -NC restriction, but it accomplishes exactly the opposite of their ideals. They want to “protect” their works from abusive exploitation from big corporate players. They don’t realize those big corporate players LOVE the -NC clause, because it’s a commercial monopoly. Big corporate players are all set up to deal with commercial monopolies: they have licensing departments and lawyers. It’s the big corporate players who can afford to license your -NC works. It’s your peers, small players with no legal departments and limited resources, who can’t. The -NC clause screws over your fellow artists and small players, while favoring big corporations.

The way to avoid abusive exploitation is to use CC-BY-SA, a Share-Alike license without the -NC restriction. This allows your peers to use the work without fear, as long as they keep it Free-as-in-Freedom. Big corporate monopoly players, however, are unwilling to release anything Freely: if they want to use your work, they’ll have to negotiate a waiver of the -SA clause. For this they will pay money. It works like a regular licensing deal: for $X you waive the -SA restriction and allow them to re-use the work without contributing to the community. I have had many corporate licensors offer me such contracts, although I didn’t sign any because I was such a Free license booster.

The only reason BY-NC-SA is popular is because people really haven’t thought it through.

6. Money seems to be one of the main worries artists have when they hear someone saying “free your work“. Is this “fear“ justified? Have you recovered all the money spent in the making of Sita Sings the Blues?

No, this fear is not justified. But your question sure is biased: “Have you recovered all the money spent in the making of Sita Sings the Blues?” As if with copyright I would have! I have made more money with Freeing my work than I ever did with copyright restrictions. Period. Where do people get this idea that putting a © on something will magically generate money? It doesn’t. If it did, I would fully support copyright, and be rich. Copyright is a “right to exclude,” not a right to make money. You are free to make money without copyright, and you stand a better chance to as well.

7. You have recently announced that SSTB is now in the public domain. Although now you are finally free of burocracy envolving copyright stuff and this action could help your movie to have more visibility, on the other side it could favour restricted modifications of your work (e.g.: a book inspired by SSTB released under “all rights reserved“). How do you weigh these two sides?

Eh, honestly I just don’t care any more. Let’s just put it out there and see what happens. If something terrible happens because I shared freely, I’ll learn from that. But I think it’s stupid to worry about what other people do, and try to control it, especially with broken laws. Even Free Share-Alike licenses require copyright law to be enforced, and copyright law is hopelessly broken. I don’t want to validate or support it in any way.

Licenses are not going to fix our problems. What is fixing our problems is increasing numbers of people simply ignoring copyright altogether. Instead of trying to get people to pay more attention to the law, as CC does, I’d rather encourage them to ignore the law in favor of focusing on the art. Licenses are the wrong solution. Art is the solution. Make art not law.

8. Are you keen on the free software movement as well? Any of your works was made using free softwares?

I’m attending the 2013 Libre Graphics Meeting in Madrid this year, to discuss building a good Free vector animation tool I can actually use. More in this article, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where My Free Vector Animation Software Is?



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 6:42pm

    OHAI Nina!

    Thank you for being one of those people willing question the old methods and models and try something new.

    Oh and imagine my surprise seeing a game with your name on it in my meatspace travels. You keep turning up. :) Its a good thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    horse with no name, May 17th, 2013 @ 6:50pm

    Copyright

    Coles notes:

    Copyright got in the way of my derivative works, so I am upset about it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Copyright

    An unoriginal comment decrying unoriginality. Meta.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    horse with no name, May 17th, 2013 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Re: Copyright

    That's the point. Glad you got it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Copyright

    So who do you owe royalties to?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    horse with no name, May 17th, 2013 @ 10:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Copyright

    I think it's fair use. Or it would be mean of the original source to sue me. Or the license was too expensive. You pick, they are all standard excuses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), May 18th, 2013 @ 1:25am

    Re: Copyright

    Interesting that in an article talking about broken copyright law you pick one of the most broken aspects of copyright to complain about - everything is a derivative work. Every. Single. Thing.
    Trying to pick out what's "too derivative" and requires a license is a game played by lawyers and corporations with the money to enforce it at the expense of anyone who actually creates culture and hopes to make a modest amount of money from their work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2013 @ 1:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Copyright

    Fair Use isn't an excuse, since it is written into the law. Try again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    lfroen (profile), May 19th, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Oh, Nina again

    Oh, no, yet-another-story-about-great-nina! Why her opinion about is so damn important? Is she very smart - no. Popular - no. So what is it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 20th, 2013 @ 4:32am

    Re: Oh, Nina again

    Well, if I could rise the money she already did with some artistic work I'd be thrilled... What is a popular artist to you? 100k fans? 1M fans? 100M fans? The one that earns enough to live of his/her work? The one who earn shitloads?

    I'll tell what's a popular artist for me. My Industrial Projects teacher had a band and he had recorded a few CDs by the time I attended College. He used to give CDs for free at the Campus and many students liked his artistic works. Many of us went to his shows and yet what he made from his musical career wasn't even close to his wages as a teacher. For me this is being popular. Sure he has just a few thousand fans and doesn't make a lot of money. But he is popular.

    And really, who are you to judge if she's smart? Are you capable of living from your artistic work? No? You may be good in your field but again... Who are you to judge?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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