Harry Potter fans documentary: We Are Wizards

Harrypotters We were psyched to receive a screening copy of We Are Wizards, a documentary about Harry Potter-inspired pop music, websites, and other fan creations. (View trailer here.)

The movie will make its NYC debut at the New York Underground Film Festival: Sat., April 5 and Tuesday, April 8th... and will appear at the Sarasota Film Festival in Florida on Sat. April 12 and Sun. April 13.

In the film, kiddies gather in libraries and auditoriums to hear fellow 7-year-olds and their elders sing songs from the perspective of characters from the Potter pantheon: Harry and the Potters (natch), Draco and the Malfoys, the Whomping Willows. Who knew that "Wizard rock" constituted an entire genre? We also get to see Brad Neely, creator of our beloved Wizard People, Dear Reader discuss his version of the first Harry Potter movie. And a young activist who led a charge against HP merchandise after Warner Brothers started threatening fans with lawsuits.

Granted, the movie isn't perfect. It's poorly edited, lacks a story arc or coherent thesis, and leans too heavily on visual effects and background music to give it an air of self-importance. To the extent that there is a story arc, it is that Warner Brothers has come around to the idea that fan art is a good thing, but if that is the case, the filmmakers lose major points for their cowardly failure to include Harry Potter movie excerpts or imagery. How can directory Josh Koury spend so much time on Brad Neely's Potter commentary without actually showing the work in question? Perhaps if he had consulted the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use or one of the recent documentaries about copyright, he'd realize how much he's gutting his own movie.

Nonetheless, We Are Wizards is entertaining and eye-opening. It's one thing to read about Harry Potter devotees, and another thing entirely to see all these kids in action. In the end, the movie is a handy record that documents how works of popular culture frequently inspire others to create.

Posted by carrie on March 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Grand Fenwick Attacks!

Antigua has been fighting the U.S. before the WTO for years, arguing that American restrictions on internet gambling violate GATT. The U.S. has, essentially, told Antigua that if it wanted to change U.S. law, they might want to invest in a nuclear warhead to get us to care.

Well, it seems that the mouse has roared. Antigua has asked the WTO for permission to release it from its obligations to the U.S. under GATT. In other words, Antigua is about to stop respecting U.S. copyrights. That should get the U.S. to start paying attention.

I'm pretty sure that Jack Valenti rolled over in his grave when Antigua filed its request. And just when he finally found a comfortable position!

(Via Fark)

Posted by Charles Star on May 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Murderers, Bank Robbers and... Xbox Modders?

Jason Jones, 35, used to run the Acme Game Store out here in Los Angeles. It was next door to Gallery 1988, which hosts the annual 8-Bit Show that Stay Free's Jason Torchinsky mentioned last year. When Acme closed, I assumed it was because Jason simply wasn't pushing enough games to afford his lavish space. But no. As this post on LAist.com explains, Jason was arrested by federal agents for allegedly selling "modded" Xbox consoles. He is now serving time in a halfway house with decidedly more violent offenders. That's your Digital Millennium Copyright Act at work, folks!

Posted by ja3 on February 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)


Is it possible to own rights to music that hasn't been made? Axl Rose thinks so.

In homage to (and, if it needs to be said, parody of) the no-longer-eagerly-anticipated Guns N' Roses album Chinese Democracy, Colin Helb and Cornslaw Industries commissioned Chinese Democracy: A Tribute to an Unheard Album. Cornslaw asked artists to create songs based on the rumored song titles on the unseen GNR album and Chinese Democracy: A Tribute, a web-only album composed of original songs, is the result.

It appears that Mr. Rose is spending more time in his lawyer's office than in the studio: Cornslaw Industries has received a Cease & Desist letter (and a cease and desist MySpace message!) from Axl's attorneys.

A friend is worried that she is the only person who cares about Chinese Democracy. She shouldn't be concerned; Axl Rose also cares. Just not enough to release an album.

(Thanks, Colin.)

Posted by Charles Star on December 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (7)

MPAA: You Are All Enemy Combatants

In the wake of the Hewlett-Packard pretexting scandal (not to mention the furor over warrantless wiretapping), people seem to be thinking a lot more about privacy. So it seemed like a no-brainer that California would pass a strong bill protecting people from having their personal information given away under false pretenses.

Alas, Wired reports that the MPAA used all of its lobbying muscle to shoot down the pretexting bill. They were opposed because, according to an aide to the bill's sponsor ""The MPAA told some members the bill would interfere with piracy investigations."

I can already predict Wired's scoop for next month:

MPAA Opposes Anti-Torture Legislation

"The parents always say that they don't download," said an MPAA spokesman, "They say that their kids are using the computer. But the only way to get a parent to testify truthfully against their kid is with advanced deprivation techniques and sustained beatings." 

Posted by Charles Star on December 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bragging Rights

Twenty-plus years ago when I was in high school, Billy Bragg's records prepared me for heartache I would face, and authority I should question, in decades to follow. And although he was not able to brace me for the future of technology and its impact on music, I'm glad Bragg is still looking out for us.

Posted by Jack Silbert on August 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Comedies of Fair Use: April 28-30 at NYU

Comediesfairuse I'm usually pretty skittish about plugging my conference panels but for those of you in New York, Comedies of Fair Use: A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars should be worth attending.

Panelists include Lawrence Lessig, Art Spiegelman, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Kembrew McLeod, Lawrence Weschler, Hank Shocklee, Jonathan Letham, Errol Morris, Joy Garnett, and the rest of us.

Friday, April 28 through Sunday, April 30
Hemmerdinger Hall
100 Washington Sq. East

(I'm speaking Saturday at 10am and on Sunday at 11:30am).

Free and open to the public. Come one, come all!

Posted by carrie on April 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Winston Smith's Close Call

Moneytree_1 Winston Smith has been cutting up other people's pictures to make surreal and politcally charged collages since the 1970s. His illustrations have appeared in magazines from Spin and Playboy to The Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker (my favorite New Yorker illustration can be seen at right).  But most know him for his album cover art for punk bands like the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra, and even Green Day. 

I emailed Winston to ask him if he'd ever had a run-in with copyright holders upset with the way he, in his words, "kidnaps innocent images from vintage magazines and diabolically glues them into compromising or politically revealing positions." Here's what he had to say:

Winston Smith: Actually, in over 25 years of appropriating images created by hard-working artists (unlike myself), only once was I ever approached about it. Sometime in the late 1990s I had made an illustration for Playboy using an image from an "Old West" magazine from around 1949.  The artist who did the original illo saw it.  He was 82 at the time, so I reckon he had something on the ball that he was still enjoying pictures of the photo lay-outs of Playboy. (Or at least the articles...)  And he recognized his work, even though I had substantially changed it and added several elements.

My art director at Playboy said the illustrator wanted to sue, until their lawyers pointed out that the image was fifty years old—the original copyright had run out about 24 years earlier. And because I had transformed the whole piece, it was no longer covered anyway.

But Playboy was cool about it and the editors invited him to write a letter about his work. So his son wrote a nice letter about his dad's career as an illustrator and how pleased he was to see that his work still had relevancy at the turn of the century (1999).  And Playboy asked me to write a letter explaining how I create my compositions and how the essence of collage as an art form depends entirely from appropriating images from different sources (without which I would be working in a GE plant making air conditioner filters outside Tulsa).  They printed both letters, plus a reproduction of the guy's original piece. (I would send you the tear sheets but the pages are stuck together).

That was the only close call (so-to-speak) that I've had in over a quarter of a century. I also try never to utilize anything from Disney, Coca-Cola or Norman Rockwell. I may be crazy but I ain't stooopid.

Posted by Steve Lambert on January 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Whatever happened to Martin Luther King?

Who says we never celebrate the holidays at Stay Free?  We've got two Martin Luther King, Jr. items for you people:

MlkchecksMartin Luther King™
What Martin Luther King's estate is doing in the name of "intellectual property" has the civil rights leader rolling over in his grave. From Stay Free! #24, by Kembrew McLeod.

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV
In his time, MLK was a radical who the FBI tried to take down. Now, he's a postage stamp. When I was teaching high school media literacy, I used this article from FAIR on MLK Day, and it inspired some lively class discussion.

Posted by carrie on January 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Documentary films and fair use

If you read our interview with the Mad Hot Ballroom producer last summer, you already know the kinds of things documentary filmmakers have to deal with to clear the copyrighted works in their films. With the movie industry refusing to acknowledge the role fair use can and should play in filmmaking, the situation has been looking pretty grim. Fortunately, the Center for Social Media has stepped up to help right this wrong by releasing the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement on Best Practices in Fair Use - a simple, straightforward guide for filmmakers.

Posted by carrie on December 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)