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Nina Paley’s “All Creative Work is Derivative”

This is an amazing animation by Nina Paley, “America’s Best-Loved Unknown Cartoonist” (and creator of the amazing animated (and free online) film Sita Sings the Blues, given rave reviews including 4 stars by Roger Ebert). Entitled “All Creative Work Is Derivative” (and blogged here on her blog), and concluding “All creative work builds on what came before,” the video is built from images of of statues and paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As she explains on All Creative Work Is Derivative (Minute Meme #2),

Copyright control extends not just to verbatim copies, but to “derivative works.” This has led to censorship on a grand scale. For example, the seminal German silent film “Nosferatu” was deemed a derivative work of “Dracula” and courts ordered all copies destroyed. Shortly before his death, author J.D. Salinger convinced U.S. courts to censor another author who transformed his characters. And so on.

The whole history of human culture evolves through copying, making tiny transformations (sometimes called “errors”) with each replication. Copying is the engine of cultural progress. It is not “stealing.” It is, in fact, quite beautiful, and leads to a cultural diversity that inspires awe.

I learned of Nina’s work when she sent me a nice email, an edited version of which follows:

Hello Stephan,

I recently read “Against Intellectual Property” and liked it very much. It reminded me of some things I’ve written: Intellectual Property is Slavery and Redefining Property: Lessons from American History; also My Official Position on Copyright.

I especially enjoyed your unique twist on Trademark, that trademark suits should be brought by consumers against frauds, rather than by trademark “owners.” I haven’t thought it all through to form my own solid opinion yet, but I like the novel approach.

Last year I released my feature film, Sita Sings the Blues, under a copyleft license (CC-BY-SA).

I’m now artist-in-residence at QuestionCopyright.org, and do what I can to promote alternatives to copyright. (Actually I’m a copyright abolitionist, but many find that identification unpalatable.)

Anyway, thanks for the good book, I’m recommending it to my Free Culture buddies.

Update: See also this amazing, fascinating short documentary with Nina Paley, The Revolution Will Be Animated:

The Revolution Will Be Animated from Marine Lormant Sebag on Vimeo.

See also her Copying Is Not Theft “Minute Meme”:


[Mises; AM]

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