Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Remember, Always Remember — The Core Principle of Capitalism Is: EVERYTHING MUST BE OWNED

Someday, perhaps not too far in the miserable future, our sorry civilization will return to owning people. For the time being, it is everything that is not a person.

The CHALLENGE, my little droogs:
The case that has me grinding my teeth. Nina Paley, distinctive, alternative, unusual animator has created out of sheer love and determination an animated film: Sita Sings the Blues. A couple of times over the past few years, I've seen little tiny portions of this — totally unlike any animation you've seen. And there is a lot of animation out there that is unlike any animation you've seen because it is done outside Pixar and Dreamworks and Hollywood by people who sweat blood for years in groups of one or two or three.

That's the great thing about animation like this — animation on the fringe, outside the mainstream: It is NOT A SLAVE to the Hollywood damned demand for photorealism. THE WHOLE POINT OF ANIMATION is that YOU CAN GO ANYWHERE YOU WANT. It's NOT limited by the constraints of the "real world" — whatever that is.

So, Nina Paley creates this great animation (and you don't have to like it, just chew on this). She animates to an audio track comprised of 80 YEAR OLD recordings. 80 YEARS. The actual recordings are now in the public domain (though Disney and others are trying to change this). BUT the scores are not. So the owners of the original music are hitting her up for tens of thousands of dollars for a project done with no intention of profit — a purely artistic endeavor (to the extent that any endeavor is "purely artistic" . . . who knows).

Needless to say, Paley does not have millions in studio backing. So the film — winning awards left and right — is stalled.

How many great artistic endeavors depended, were intimately tied to, past work. And how many can we just think of — great or otherwise — that depend on pre-existing and, potentially, "pre-owned" content? Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, Mozart, Shakespeare, The Rennaissance, Greek Revival. We stand on the shoulders of giants. It's the very essence of civilization. Later work proceeds from earlier, in an infinite variety or ways.

Maybe some boner-buster at Harvard will try to patent BLUE EYES, or HAVING SKIN, just as they patented the "Harvard nude mouse" (yes, it's for real).

Beethoven, in some of his work (like many many other composers) used existing, traditional music in the course of his composition. NOT ANY MORE.


Herewith my comment on Paley's blog. I should be more angry or angry about other "more important" things, I guess. Well, never fear my droogs, I am.
This is _exactly_ the kind of problem that thousands of artists and legal scholars have been warning about. Two people who come to mind: Cory Doctorow, who wrote about this on boingboing, and some legal eagle at Berkeley or Stanford whose name I can’t remember. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also been good on this.

Unfortunately, since artists are “just” artists, the idiots and moneygrubbers in Congress won’t get their heads out of their asses for a case like this. BUT sooner or later, there will be a case where some great innovation is lost, some new medicine, some new scientific discovery (and I’m thinking of copyright issues broadly here) and people will die or something terrible will happen. Then finally, this shites will figure it out. Still . . . I wouldn’t count on it. These are the same kind of people who tried to patent “clicking a button”.

Fight the good fight, be angry, be mellow. Send it to China, India. Some place where the billionaire fucks don’t yet control everything down to how we sit on the can. And may those bastards some day meet me in a dark place.

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