As I was getting ready to write my next entry for the East Coast Creative Collective, I noticed a tweet from Ton Roosendaal, the creator of the free 3D animation software Blender. On April 5, Ton wrote that Blender’s animated short, “Sintel” was banned from viewing on YouTube at the request of Sony Pictures. YouTube’s Content ID system scans multimedia files on its website to determine the presence of illegal copyright materials in accordance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
Sintel, about a young woman who befriends a little dragon, is an Open Source Movie project, produced by the Blender Foundation as a way to use the Blender 3D software in a proper Computer Graphics (CG) animation studio pipeline. Throughout the project, features were added and improved by not only a team of programmers at the Blender Institute but also by volunteer coders on the Internet. At the time of completion, the final movie, 3D assets (characters, props, sets and textures) and the soundtrack were released under a Creative Commons License. Under this license, anyone can freely produce derivative works or original works for educational, non-commercial, and commercial use.
Sony Pictures had no direct or indirect involvement in the making of Sintel. Sony didn’t provide any type of financial contribution to the project. Its animation unit, Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI), produces high-quality, feature-length, animated movies for the family audience, e.g. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Sony makes money off of ancilliary merchandising based off of their movie properties, including those produced by SPI. Sintel did not belong to Sony as a creative property.
News of the Sintel ban exploded across the web. Sites like Cartoon Brew and Reddit featured stories about the ban. A petition circulated on the Internet, demanding Sony and YouTube lift the ban on Sintel. Within 48 hours, YouTube lifted the ban. There was no explanation from Sony or YouTube, not even an apology.
So what does this mean for us?
This incident is a reminder that big corporations like Sony have full rein to do whatever they like without rhyme or reason. They can claim full ownership on anything they didn’t create and call it their own. Under the guise of copyright protection, corporations seek to control the internet altogether. Like YouTube’s Content ID system, copyright enforcement is fraught with problems. The actions of Sony and YouTube stifle creativity and innovation.
The internet, as we know, has all sorts of unimaginable works: music, video, digital paintings, writing, etc. Not just creating, sharing or collaboration is the true power of the web. As artists, we shouldn’t be shackled by the whims of big corporations. We’ve always found creative ways to work around any type of restrictive system to produce works of art.
So don’t be afraid. Do what feels right to you as an artist. Upload your works online. Don’t let anyone or any organization stop you from creating art. You can control the distribution. It is your work. Period!
Follow your instincts. Pursue your passion. Be creative!