Help Wanted: Can Your Servers Host a Feature Film?

Distributing 'Sita Sings The Blues' Worldwide

Film-maker Nina Paley is close to having her award-winning feature film Sita Sings The Blues out of copyright jail and onto the Internet for free, decentralized distribution.

Our goal is to have the entire film available online by Saturday, March 7th.

We’ll need some “seed” sites to host it: Internet servers with the capacity to offer around 10 GB of data for public download (so we can make the film available at various resolutions). If you or your institution has the bandwidth and storage for that, please contact us. We’ll work out a way to get the data to you.

Why March 7th?

That night, Sita Sings The Blues will be broadcast on New York’s public television station WNET — Channel 13 (see here for details). Public television has a special exemption written into U.S. copyright law, such that they can show the film even when it’s still in copyright jail for everyone else. However, Nina Paley has made progress on finalizing contracts with the music composition copyright holders, and we believe we’ll be able to release the entire film by then. Since the New York showing will expose the film to a large new audience, when those people go to recommend it to all their friends, we want their friends to have an easy way to get it.

Note that free distribution really means free: you will be able to watch the film on your computer, make DVDs and distribute them, and hold public screenings (the film will circulate online in high-resolution formats appropriate for screenings). Your activities can be commercial or non-commercial, that’s up to you.

Our thanks to all who have donated so far to enable this experiment in decentralized distribution! But we can still use help: the rights clearance process — or rather, the “restrictions clearance” process — is not cheap. So if you’ve been considering donating to support Nina’s effort, here’s that link again.

11 Comments on "Help Wanted: Can Your Servers Host a Feature Film?"

  1. [Note: the original post was edited in response to this comment, so the comment will only make sense if you realize that we were originally proposing to host 500GB of high-res files for Internet download. As the commenter points out, that won’t work.]

    Something’s fishy here. When I download an 2.5 hour HD movie from iTunes, it’s no bigger than 5GB. I can totally understand the need to make the original 600GB “raw source” available to the public for editing, clipping, mashups, etc., but the internet is NOT the way to distribute 600GB. Even with broadband (about 10MB/1min), it’s absurd to expect ‘mixers’ to spend 1000 hours (40 days??) downloading this stuff. The only real solution is to use the postal service: “please send me a hard disk, I’ll fill it up, mail it back to you.” Most of the ‘mixers’ will be perfectly happy with the 5GB compressed (but still relatively HD) stuff.

  2. Thank you, you’re right. For the really big high-res files, we’ll have to work out something else. In the meantime, I’ve updated the post to state a much lower number for data/bandwidth requirements.

  3. Of course we want 4GB DVD files circulating, and smaller, more compressed versions as well.

    But someone, somewhere, should host the large files, because honestly I don’t want to have to buy a hard drive and go to the post office every time someone needs them. If someone wants to start a business distributing hard drives with the big files by mail, fine; but the files should still be freely available to anyone with an internet connection and sufficient patience. These huge files aren’t instead of more convenient forms, they’re in addition to.

  4. Agreed. It’s probably sufficient for the super-large files to start out on one seed site; they can spread from there. The DVD files will start on several seed sites, though.

    (I’ve contacted one potential site for the large files already, privately, but if anyone reading this can volunteer that kind of storage and bandwidth, please let us know.)

  5. I suggested this already on Nina’s blog as well, but the ultimate answer for seeding the reasonably-sized copies is, of course, BitTorrent. I and many others would be happy to seed various quality versions via BitTorrent.

    BTW, current blu-ray (*rips*), encoded with the h264 codec, offer nearly perfect HD quality and you would be stretched to fill much more than 5 gigs of capacity when compressed thus. I hope you guys will consider this as one of the primary compressed versions that you offer.

    1. I’d better clarify something:

      “Seed sites” means just that: these are a few sites that we will make sure have the data on March 7th.

      They are not meant to be primary download sites for very long — we expect BitTorrents and even blu-ray copies to show up eventually, and most importantly, we don’t expect to do any work to make all this happen, beyond putting the data on the seed sites :-). So yes, please host a Torrent. Everyone is encouraged to!

      We’ll link to some of those other sites from as appropriate: sites that share revenue with Nina or do something else nice will be given preference (this will be explained in more detail at

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