Thursday, 19 March 2009

Sita Sings the Blues - story on story

Sita Sings the Blues
Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by e-mail. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

The copyright back story
You can see the whole thing right now, here. But take a moment to hear the story in the story.

Sita Sings the Blues
is the creative child of cartoonist and animator Nina Paley. She spent three years making the movie and then hit a wall in terms of distribution because of her supposed failure to clear rights to the music.

As it happens the music she uses comes from the 1920's singer Annette Hanshaw. And in a typical example of the current copyright labyrinth, although the recordings are out of copyright, the compositions themselves are still restricted.

Question Copyright
Question Copyright estimate it would cost her US$50k to clear the rights. They have also helped Nina Paley spread message that her difficulties are a classic example of "how today's copyright system suppress art, effectively forcing artists to make creative choices based on licensing concerns rather than on their artistic vision"

Nina Paley Interviews
Nina has given some great interviews on the topic of copyright and creativity. One of her best lines is that "artists internalise the permission culture", which in turn affects the art the make."

This quote and others on the need for a radical shakeup in our copyright laws are on view in two interviews. The first is a short 3 minute YouTube highlights. This is here.

However, the entire interview with is also available as an embed - and yep - I couldn't resist the temptation to put it up here.

Watch Sita Sings the Blues
At the time when she gives the interview, last November, the film was still undistributed. However, all that has changed. Using the Creative Commons framework, the entire thing is available in multiple formats, here, including a streaming version at, here.

Nina Paley's own site is here


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