Sita Sings the Blues vs. Ink: How licensing treats us differently

Sita Sings the Blues” is an independently produced movie that is widely legally copied on the Internet. Writer/director/producer Nina Paley released “Sita” under a license that allows sharing (and far more, actually, but the details of how much more are beside the point of this article). Sita is also for sale on her store and anyone may download the movie from countless sources online (including locally—DVD ISO). The Internet Archive lists over 153,000 downloads from their site alone.

You can also download the soundtrack online and share it with anyone you choose (not all the tracks are sharable, but that’s not Nina Paley’s fault, the copyright holder for some music is not willing to share).

“Ink” is an independently produced movie that is widely illicitly copied on the Internet. Ink stands out because unlike chiefs of more famous movie studios, Ink’s writer/director Jamin Winans and producer Kiowa K. Winans wrote to TorrentFreak to thank them for promoting the movie and to say that the illicit sharing has made the movie far more popular, including increasing sales of home video copies.

But how do these movie makers treat you, the audience?

  • Paley shares with her audience by licensing her work to be shared (and built upon). If you share/build upon Sita in accordance with her license, you need not fear a copyright infringement lawsuit. Paley contributes something to our culture that treats us fairly and encourages us to do the same.
  • The Winanses are knowingly allowing their restrictively-licensed movie to be shared illicitly. Even as they celebrate the popularity and sales brought to them by sharing, they retain the power to win a copyright infringement lawsuit even for non-commercially sharing a verbatim copy of their movie. Enforcement of their copyright against anyone who shares the movie can come at any time.

Metaphorically, the Sword of Damocles hovers above anyone who shares a copy of Ink; losing a copyright infringement lawsuit could cost someone a lot of money. There is no such threat for those who share copies of Sita. The terms under which we may share and build upon Sita are very easy to comply with. There are no terms under which we may legally share Ink.

I think it’s important to keep this in mind as you read TorrentFreak’s glowing letters of support about Ink. We can all appreciate a good movie, but not all good movies are licensed to treat us the well. This is why I gladly bought an artist-signed copy of Sita (and would consider buying have bought Sita chotchkes from Nina Paley). I have no plans to do business with the Winanses.

Let’s hope that Ink’s copyright holders come to realize their movie should be licensed to us to share (at least non-commercially and verbatim).