Yes Means Yes

This is crossposted from, the home site of our Artist-in-Residence Nina Paley.  Even though it's a very personal message, we decided to cross-post it here because it raises an important point: the "ask-permission-first culture" has become so pervasive that even people who explicitly release their art to be shared freely still get asked for permission to share!  To be fair, there are many other people who don't ask permission, but the absolute number of those who do is still significant, and it points to how far we still have to go.  Nina says "[A]pologies for the peevish tone - I really appreciate anyone who copies Sita Sings the Blues, Mimi & Eunice, and any and all of my other works." --The Editors

Please don’t ask my permission to re-use my work. YOU ALREADY HAVE PERMISSION. Please copy, share, re-use, redistribute, edit, modify, sell, etc.

Asking permission wastes your time, and mine. You might not mind wasting your time. Many people think asking for permission is a “sign of respect.” But what about my time?

Information (including all of my work) is not scarce. Attention (time) is.

Emails get lost in spam filters. They get lost amid the hundreds of other emails in my inbox. I’ve been known to take vacations and actually get away from my computer for a few days – something I should be doing more often. So what happens if you don’t get any response to your permission request? Do you not reuse the work? A work that has been explicitly made Free in the hopes you will reuse it? Not reusing the work harms the work, and harming a work is disrespectful. Delaying reusing the work likewise harms the work, in smaller increments.

Suppose a “respectful” email asking for permission which has already been explicitly granted doesn’t get caught in a spam filter or lost in some other glitch. Suppose it actualy makes it into my inbox. Now I am obligated to respond – the requester essentially said, “I’m not going to use this work unless you respond.” As “respectful” as this sounds, it places an unfair burden on me. The work, and any use of the work, should not be held hostage pending my checking and responding to email.

It is not “respectful” to make me do more, unnecessary work.

More importantly, asking permission is bad for the work itself. If you refuse to reuse the work unless I send you an email, you are blocking an expression or distribution of the work. How many days or weeks or months are you willing to put it off pending my ability to process email? Or worse, someone thinks it’s “respectful” to require me to sign papers and mail them back. Yes, this happens. I have such paperwork sitting right here, telling me that unless I sign it and mail it back, they won’t use the work they already have explicit permission to use. How is it “respectful” to make me jump through more hoops before they redistribute or remix a work I’ve made explicitly Free?

If you want to show respect, please send me something like this instead:

Dear Nina,

I thought you might like to know I’ve reused _________________  in _________________. Check it out at (insert URL here). Thanks for making the work Free!

Someone Who Understands Yes means Yes

Ahh, lovely. Thank you!

The Open Utopia Project: A Beautiful Use of the Public Domain.


Banner Image for The Open Utopia Project (cropped).

Stephen Duncombe has initiated a lovely project: The Open Utopia, a new English translation of Thomas More's Utopia, made and distributed according to the communitarian principles espoused in the book.

This edition of Utopia is open: open to use, open to copying, open to modification. On this site I’ve presented Utopia in different formats in order to enhance this openness. If the visitor wishes to read Utopia they can find a copy. If they want to download and copy a version, I’ve provided links to do so in different formats for different devices. Those who like to listen will find a reading of Utopia on audio files. There is an annotatable text available if the visitor would like to comment upon what More — or I — have written, and   I’ve created a wiki — WikiTopia — so readers can collaboratively write their own Utopia.  And for those visitors to this site who would like to simply enjoy the text in a new context I am offering a DigiLuxe version to flip through while on-line. More versions for more platforms will be available in the future.

If you'd like to help, you can contribute your time (especially if you know Latin), or you can help fund the project.  They've raised $2600 out of a desired $3500 so far:


Subscribe to RSS