February 13, 2009

Set Sita free! (updated)

I did promise to say something about — no, for — cartoonist/animator Nina Paley and her animated movie, Sita Sings the Blues.

That time is now.


Original artwork ©2008 Nina Paley Productions, L.L.C.


Ms. Paley and her friends at QuestionCopyright.org have put out the call for anyone whose servers can host the movie for direct download.

And what kind of animated movie are we talking about? How about a multilayered tale of love done wrong, adapted from the Hindu Sanskrit epic of Ramayana, with occasional commentary from the 1920's–era songs made famous by one Annette Hanshaw (a silent film actress and singer)?

Alright, that doesn't quite begin to do Ms. Paley's film justice. But that's in part because this is one movie you probably haven't heard of before. You see, Sita Sings the Blues can't get a distribution deal because it is under an anal kind of Copyright lockdown.

In this case, Ms. Paley used several sound recordings of the aforementioned Annette Hanshaw… singing songs that, sadly, are still protected under old school Copyright.

Things may yet change, as Ms. Paley and her colleagues are negotiating with the rights holders to the songs (the actual songs — not the recordings thereof, which are no longer under Copyright protection, strangely enough). In the meantime, they are looking to get arrangements for server space fixed so that they'll be ready to offer Sita's story for download the moment the last of the Copyright hurdles is cleared.

Need to get a handle on Ms. Paley's dilemna? Watch this interview for QuestionCopyright.org (hosted by Google Video, and also at the Internet Archive):


2008 QuestionCopyright.org.


I hope to be among those watching WNET/Thirteen on Saturday, March 7th, at around 10:45 p.m. (Eastern). The PBS station may even have a compressed edition of the film streaming online much earlier — as early as Thursday, February 26th, if all works out OK.

If my schedule doesn't work out, I will certainly wait for the download.

Until the blesséd day comes, at least there's the trailer hosted at the Internet Archive. (I can't embed it here because it autoplays when the blog loads. My deepest apologies.)


By the way, Ms. Paley is looking for people to help get Sita out of Copyright jail. If you've got a credit card you haven't maxed out yet, and can use Google Checkout, go for it.

Want more? Have a look at "The Stork":


©2001 Nina Paley.

And here's big box motherhood in "FERTCO":


©2002 Nina Paley.

One final word, for those of you who would poo–pooh Ms. Paley for not opting to replace the Hanshaw music in Sita's story with something not under Copyright lockdown:

It isn't always so easy. Especially if your Muse is gently insistent.

[UPDATE 2009.03.06: Sita has been set free: You can now watch the film online at the WNET/Thirteen website, and/or download it in H264 format from the Internet Archive.

Plus, Mme. Paley has laid out her reasons for sticking with the Annette Hanshaw sound in an essay on the movie's official site. Please take the time to read it.]

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