Andy Warhol Foundation Supports our Minute Memes Project with $30k Grant.

Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

We are pleased to announce that the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has given their 2009 Wynn Kramarsky Freedom of Artistic Expression Award to our Minute Memes animation project. The award comes with a grant of $30,000 USD, to fund the creation of the first three memes (one of which is already available in draft form).

We thank the Andy Warhol Foundation for their support, and for their recognition of copyright's effects on freedom of expression. Our application to the Foundation focused on this point:

The Minute Memes project is a series of one-minute animated videos about copyright restrictions and artistic freedom, to be made by award-winning graphic artist and animator Nina Paley — author of the film "Sita Sings the Blues", adjunct faculty at Parsons The New School For Design in New York City (teaching Visual Narrative), 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, and Artist in Residence at

The Minute Memes are a response to widely-available videos and other materials from the copyright industry (see reference [1]), in which the message is that copyright is a natural and absolute property right that trumps freedom of expression and people's ability to share and reimagine the culture around them. The Minute Memes will counteract this through visual storytelling, backed by still-image and written supplementary materials, to show how artists and audiences can thrive in a more permissive, less monopolistic environment than the one envisioned by the current copyright system.

The Minute Memes will offer an aesthetically engaging and intellectually consistent framework for considering copyright's restrictive effects. Step by step, the series will build a new frame of reference to supplant received rhetoric about copyright — received rhetoric such as the notion of "balancing" the needs of creators and the public, which assumes that the two are in opposition; the idea that copying is a form of stealing; the idea that control over copies must be bound up with attribution; etc. We have already seen anecdotal evidence that there is a need for the Minute Memes; for example, see [2].

This grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation is also a kind of seed funding for the entire project, which will be a series of twelve or more memes (see the project page for details). We are actively seeking funding for the other memes, as well as for other projects that question and reframe copyright restrictions. If you are interested in supporting our work, or know someone who might be, please contact us or donate.


Freedom Doublespeak.

freedom of speech

Famed science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin recently circulated a petition opposing the Google Books Settlement.

If you want to understand why exists and what we're trying to do, you couldn't ask for a more succint demonstration than this passage below from Le Guin's petition:

The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. (emphasis added)

When an intelligent, sensitive author like Ursula K. Le Guin can write something like that, apparently oblivious to the glaring internal contradiction, it's clear the time is ripe for this issue to be radically reframed.

"To have freedom, we must have monopoly and control.  Up is down.  Love is hate.  War is peace."

Seem odd to you too?  Join us.



We got this submission from a performance artist who wishes to remain anonymous, for reasons that will be clear below (though we've verified that it is from a well-regarded performer). While we generally run attributed pieces, it's good to have a reminder once in a while that there are many artists who are impeded by copyright but who, for professional reasons, can't talk about it openly. When trying to measure the damage done by copyright restrictions, one must allow for the fact that creative repression is an underreported crime.

I have this one show which is kind of languishing, in part because I don't know what to do about the music. I developed the show over the course of a couple of years, playing around with different pieces of music as the show evolved. When I came to the point where the show was "finished" and I had found music, I was so overwhelmed at the prospect of licensing it all that I... just never did.

I showed the piece once, without doing any licensing, to a packed house and a very warm reception. I did, by the way, contact the artists who made the music in my show. They're local. And they were like, "Oh, hey, this sounds great. Yeah, go for it. But you know, it's not our permission you need."


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