Sita Sings the Blues goes CC0

Nina Paley has released her landmark animated feature Sita Sings the Blues under a CC0 license (as close to putting it in the public domain as you can get). She did it because of a "vow of nonviolence" and the inanity of copyright lawyers.

I learned of Aaron’s death on Sunday; on Monday, the National Film Board of Canada told me I had to fill out paperwork to “allow” filmmaker (and personal friend) Chris Landreth to refer to Sita Sings the Blues in his upcoming short, Subconscious Password, even though Fair Use already freed the NFB from any legitimate fear of Share-Alike’s viral properties. I make compromises to my principles every day, but that Monday I just couldn’t. The idiocy of NFB’s lawyers was part of the same idiocy that Aaron fought in liberating documents from JSTOR. I couldn’t bear to enable more bad lawyers, more bad decisions, more copyright bullshit, by doing unpaid paperwork for a corrupt and stupid system. I just couldn’t.

So the NFB told Chris to remove all references to SSTB from his film.

There are consequences for taking a principled stance. People criticize you, fear you, and pity you. You get plenty of public condemnation. You lose money. Sometimes the law goes after you, and although that hasn’t happened to me yet, it could as I do more civil disobedience in the future.

Ahimsa: Sita Sings the Blues now CC-0 “Public Domain”



  1. Great film, made with heart, rather than the latest flavour of the month from Disney/Dreamworks. I applaud Nina and her stance. 

  2. Will anyone remind me, how was the issue of the songs used in the movie not being in public domain solved?

  3. Note to all film-makers… you can avoid all this self-created complication by writing new songs for your movie instead of appropriating someone else’s.

    Can’t write songs and don’t have a friend who will do it for you? There are other genres besides “movie musical”.

    1. An artist need struggle against the boundaries of self -this is best realized when the boundaries others place are ignored.

    2. I’m certain that the artist will be glad that these companies fought so hard to protect her rights.
      Oh, wait, she’s been dead 28 years now (23 at the time of “Sita’s” release)? So basically, all profits now merely go to the corporations that own the rights? Maybe the record execs could write their own songs and sell them instead of claiming ownership of someone else’s creative works.

    3.  Her collection of the things one must do to properly pay off the myriad parasites living off the body of works of long passed away artists is a work of art in itself.

    4.  The use of the iconic songs was part of the style/art of the movie, it wouldn’t have worked as well with new pieces.

      1. Polite disagreement here.

        The Drowsy Chaperone is an excellent example of how a work can use entirely new musical pieces to evoke style and art. It can be done. They have awards to prove it. So maybe it could have but really *should* it have to?

        Whether someone *should* have to reinvent cultural wheels because of a broken copyright system is the real, bigger question.

        I offer my respect to Nina for both her talents and her stand against this. Lots of good reasons why to do so have already been pointed out on BoingBoing. Still, I am amazed at the amount of work and what a chunk of her life that it must represent that she’s putting out there under her first creative common license and now updated this license.

        As somebody  who has to work within this current copyright system, I really wish things were different for so many little stupid reasons. There has got to be better ways.

        1.  She very specifically wanted to use the music of that exact singer in the movie because of the singer’s history and image

  4. If any artistic or educational grants remain (during these sorry economic times (e.g. National Endowment for the Arts)) then Nina Paley should be jumped to the head of the line.  it would benefit us all.

  5. How about this for civil disobedience — sending the lawyers a non-license letter?

    To whom it may concern,

    I have been asked to license rights in my copyrighted work [insert name of work] to [insert what the folks want to do with the work].  I cannot grant that license because there is nothing to license — the requested use of my work falls within the Fair Use doctrine.  I understand that the sending of this letter operates as an equitable estoppel against me or anyone in privity with me ever taking the position in any legal forum that the use described above is not a Fair Use, and therefore precludes me from asserting copyright infringement based on the use described above.


    Even the thickest, dumbest lawyer ought to understand that this letter operates like a license, in terms of giving them the freedom to use the copyrighted work in the way they wanted to.

  6. I really ought to get around to watching this sometime.

    Be sure to check out “This Land is Mine” (Ms. Paley’s more recent work) if you haven’t already.

    And it’s good to hear Mr. Landreth (that’s they guy who won the Oscar for “Ryan” some years ago) is doing things too.

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