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Nina Paley Turns Down Netflix Streaming of Sita

I’ve repeatedly written about and even interviewed Nina Paley, following the course of her experiment with distributing and commercializing her wonderful, feature length film, “Sita Sings the Blues”. I admire Nina the most for embracing the commercialization of her work and really exploring the space of possible business models that might help earn back her considerable investment. She strikes an incredible balance between supporting the open commons and deriving real monetary value from her work in a way I think is ethically sustainable.

I first became aware of her most recent challenge when she put a call out via Facebook yesterday. She asking for advice on whether she should authorize “Sita” for streaming via Netflix’s online service. At issue is whether the DRM used by the video rental company was a step too far.

She shared a post today offering more details of how this question came up and her thought process around the opportunity. Like Cory Doctorow’s investigations into the DRM used by Audible, she tried to find out if she could first get an exception to the DRM used by Netflix. Failing that, she asked if they would run a pre-roll message indicating the film is available for download, without DRM, and where to find it. That also was a no go.

Ultimately, John Gilmore convinced her that the greater reach of Netflix’s streaming was not worth sacrificing her principles on avoiding DRM as it foils the free spread of works. I love her concluding thought, seeing her bring the same courage and experimental spirit to this question that has guided the film’s spread so far.

What I want to know is, where can we “Sita” fans write to let Netflix know that we would gladly stream the film if only they would offer creators a DRM-free option?

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  1. Andrew Gilbertson says

    Given that Netflix’s web player is a Silverlight application, it’s entirely possible that removing DRM from the web player presents a technical challenge (opportunity?) that Netflix isn’t willing to take up at this time. However, given that Netflix doesn’t have a problem renting DVDs that you can easily go to the store and purchase (generally for a price less than that of two months of Netflix service), I don’t understand why they turned refused to allow the addition of a note saying that the video was also available for download. Perhaps it’s just that the “business mindset,” not realizing that it is getting perennially easier for even the not-technically-savvy user to do their own format shifting, still believes that businesses can provide value by doing then work of performing the format shift for the user – and since this particular work is already available in one of the most common formats to shift to, they don’t see how they can monetize it. Or it’s equally possible that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.



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