Nina Paley passes Netflix DRM and thousands of dollars

Nina Paley was approached by Netflix to offer her amazing animated feature Sita Sings the Blues on their streaming service. Sita retells the saga of Rama and incorporates some vintage jazz, to marvellous effect. In order to clear this old jazz music, Paley had to go through an enormous rigamarole, and this experience has turned her into an advocate for a more liberal copyright.

So Nina asked if Netflix would stream her movie without DRM. Netflix refused. Then Nina asked if she could add some pre-roll to the film advising viewers of places they could get it for free and without DRM.

Netflix refused.

This mirrors my experience with Audible and the Kindle, where I, as the copyright holder and creator, was not allowed to offer my work without DRM and/or a restrictive license-agreement -- I wasn't even allowed to add something to the text or audio saying, "I release you from the license agreement you've clicked through."

Nina's done what I did. She's refused to license her works for a platform that restricts her audience against her wishes, and she's told the world what she's done and why. It cost her thousands of dollars, but she stuck to her principles, and set an example for other creators, as well as making sure that her viewers got a fair deal. Bravo!

I've been the "change I want to see" in regards to copyright monopolies. People told me I'd lose everything by copylefting Sita, including all hope of professional distribution. But in fact, some professional distributors became willing to distribute Sita without claiming monopolies over it, and we're all fine.

I'd still love Sita to be offered through Netflix's online channels; if they ever offer DRM-free video-on-demand, I hope they remember Sita Sings the Blues.

For now, people will just have to obtain Sita by visiting the vast big Internet outside of Netflix. Most of the Internet still isn't enclosed by Netflix, or Amazon, or iTunes. Most of the Internet is still Free; I'm doing what little I can to keep it that way. I'm sad to lose the potential viewers who may have found Sita through Netflix's electronic delivery. But maybe some of those Netflix subscribers will discover the rest of the Internet because of my tiny act of resisting DRM.

What Nina said. I love Audible's convenience and selection. I love ebooks. I dream of the day when I, as a copyright holder and creator, can partner with the iTunes Store, Amazon and Audible to offer digital versions of my works on simple terms like, "Respect copyright law" and "You bought it, you own it."

Turning down Netflix (via The Command Line)