How an Audience-Distributed Film Won Big: talk at WordCamp SF

Karl Fogel

Update — video available: (start at 2 min 24 sec to skip unrelated intro about conference lunch)

Update — slides available: ODP PDF

I gave a talk at WordCamp San Francisco this Saturday, May 1st: Bodysurfing the Blogosphere: How an Audience-Distributed Film Won Big. It's an in-depth look at how audience distribution worked for Nina Paley's freely-licensed film "Sita Sings the Blues". The talk was live-streamed, and we expect to have the downloadable video in a few days; we'll post it when it's available.

Think of this talk as the story behind the numbers, with a big nod to the disintermediation technologies (including WordPress, which I've had running my personal blog for years) that made it possible for a filmmaker's audience to become both her primary distributor and her primary source of income; the film also has commercial distributors, and I talked about that too.

Speaking of the blogosphere:

Our Artist-in-Residence, Nina Paley, has written a terrific post on her blog about why she stuck to her guns (er, or her USB sticks) and told Netflix no on DRM. She explained that they were welcome to offer her film Sita Sings the Blues on their streaming service only if they could offer it without Digital Restrictions Management that would interfere with viewers' ability to see, save, and share the film. Netflix wouldn't take off the DRM, and although Nina, as the licenseholder, could have granted them an exception, she chose not to, despite the considerable potential loss to her in viewers and in money.

She's gotten a lot of comments on her decision, with some people saying they didn't understand her objection to DRM on a streaming service. So she wrote a followup post What's wrong with "streaming" DRM? that explains the issue so clearly that we'll probably be appropriating it for this site at some point :-).

Enjoy both posts, and remember: one way to support her decision is to donate to the Sita Distribution Project. We've seen a spike in donations since she made her decision public, and that's a great feeling.


The Cobbler: A New Career Model for Artists and Entertainers

Laure Parsons

A media professional with several years of experience in distribution and production, Laure Parsons is a consultant and filmmaker specializing in new approaches and technologies. Most recently Director of Home Media Sale and Marketing at Zeitgeist Films, she has worked for National Film Board of Canada, New Yorker Films and Tribeca Film Festival. She can be found at and

In the past, high production and distribution costs have forced artists into a kind of gambling mentality. In order to reach audiences, artists had to rely on production companies and distributors, who in turn had to take a large percentage of revenues to cover the high costs associated with producing a film, making a run of books, or releasing an album.

Because distributors spread their risk across many different works, betting that a few will "make it big", artists too were led to a lottery attitude: your work either won big or not at all. If a work had the fortune to make it big, it could sometimes make money for the artist despite many middlemen taking their pieces — but if it did not, the artist was unlikely to make much money at all.

Final Version of "Copying Is Not Theft" Released!

The first official release of Copying Is Not Theft is now ready, with a new sound track arranged by Nik Phelps and sung by Connie Champagne:

Download the high-res version at

Question Copyright's first Minute Meme is a response to messages that have tried to convince people that copying information is the same as stealing property, when it's an entirely different (and generally positive) thing. Until the air is cleared on that point, it's hard to have any kind of useful conversation about copying, sharing, copyright, or licensing.

The purpose of these Minute Memes is to give educators and commentators more tools to help clear the air. Copying is not Theft conveys its simple idea with a catchy tune, clever lyrics, and delightful animation by Nina Paley. Many thanks to Nik Phelps and Connie Champagne for a terrific sound track. We also thank the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for supporting this meme and others with a generous grant. Copying Is Not Theft is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

See the Minute Memes home page for more about the project. See the Copying Is Not Theft home page for more about this meme and for other arrangements, remixes, and mashups, based on the draft Nina released last December.


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