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Nina Sings the Copyright Song

March 17, 2009

Nina Paley is an animator whose critically-acclaimed film, Sita Sings the Blues (which you can watch for free in its entirety on Reel 13) recently plunged her into the tangled web of copyright law.

To make a long story very short, Sita Sings the Blues features copyright-restricted Annette Hanshaw songs. Here’s an explanation from

After pouring three years of her life into making the film, and having great success with audiences at festival screenings, she now can’t distribute it, because of music licensing issues: the film uses songs recorded in the late 1920’s by singer Annette Hanshaw, and although the recordings are out of copyright, the compositions themselves are still restricted. That means if you want to make a film using these songs from the 1920s, you have to pay money — a lot of money (around $50,000.00).

Nina’s dilemma inspired her next project: a series of short animations, called Minute Memes, aimed at informing the public about copyright law. In the video below, Nina performs a number she wrote for the new series.


UPDATE: Put the word out. Nina wants you to remix this video. From her blog: “Feel free to remix, re-record, or otherwise re-make this song so I can animate to it.”

  • Download the .mov here.
  • Download the .mp3 here.

Reel 13 also picked Nina’s brain about the circumstances that led Sita Sings the Blues to it’s distribution on Reel 13 and We also asked her for her thoughts on online film distribution in general, both as a marketing vehicle and a venue for movie watching.

Creative Commons License
Nina Paley Sings “The Copyright Song” by Nina Paley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License
Nina Paley interview by Reel 13 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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