Down By (Copyright) Law
September 29, 2008 7:59 PM Subscribe
Why is Nina Paley depressed? Her debut feature film, Sita Sings the Blues — which she animated herself in Adobe Flash — screened to general acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It won the best feature-film award at this year’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival and best American feature at the Avignon Film Festival. Oh, wait, here’s the problem — she can’t find a distributor willing to take a chance on her unconventional, very personal film. (This is a bad year to be shopping an indie.) Because she doesn’t have “synch rights” to the compositions underlying the Annette Hanshaw songs that inspired the story — and now constitute its backbone — she can’t give the film away. Having invested so much in striking prints of the film for festivals and making screener DVDs for press, she’s too broke to pay the $220,000 it would take to clear the 11 songs for distribution. (Don’t miss the spreadsheet showing exactly how much the various players expect her to pay to clear each 80-year-old song.) And now she notes, with tongue maybe half in cheek, she may be on the hook for felony copyright infringement. Also, she’s newly homeless. What’s an indie animator to do? Previously discussed here and here.
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