Merry Christmas to You and Yours

Have a safe and happy holiday!


Free Culture Film Festival #SFD


cover2I’ve been asked to put together a Free Culture Film Festival as part of Waterloo Region’s Software Freedom Day Celebration this Saturday.  This year Software Freedom Day is brought to you by the KWLUG in co-operation with The Working Centre.
Approved for Free Cultural Works symbol
I wasn’t sure what I would be able to find, and as it turns out, my biggest problem wasn’t how little was available, but how much.

I wanted to present a varied selection of films that qualify as Free Culture for different reasons.


Rama drops Sita ~ from Nina Paley's brilliant "Sita Sings The Blues"amaSaturday, 20 September 2014 (iCal)
The Working Centre
43 Queen Street South and 58 Queen Street South (Map)

For information about the #SFD Presentations, Workshops and Installfest visit the KWLUG Software Freedom Day page.
All activities are free of charge unless you are purchasing computer equipment during the Installfest.




10:00am “Charade” (1963) ~ Copyright Never Happened

Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn (113 min)
In 1963 American copyright required registration. One of the requirements was that any work to be protected by copyright had to be properly identified as such. What should have been the copyright notice included in the opening credits of the movie Charade failed to include the word “copyright” or the abbreviation “copr” or the © symbol, which meant Charade was inadvertently published directly into the public domain the moment it was released.
But although the film itself is in the Public Domain, any artwork and publicity material may or may not be, so for the purposes if this screening, it was safer for not to use an official movie poster, but to instead cobble together my own with images taken directly from the film. I have in turn released my poster directly into the Public Domain with the Creative Commons CC0 license.
My DVD copy of Charade was a bonus feature included with one of the the Charade remakes, The Truth About Charlie. Since Charade is in the public domain, no royalties would be required for a film that choses to do this. In fact, when I bought the DVD I had no idea if I would like the remake, but it was worth risking because to replace my Charade VHS with a DVD.

12:00pm Harold Lloyd: “Never Weaken” ~ Copyright Expired

Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis ~ running time: 29 minutes
Silent screen film maker and movie star Harold Lloyd co-starring with his leading lady (and later wife) Mildred Davis in Never Weaken. This was the last short film he ever – all his subsequent films were feature films.
Harold Lloyd continued making films even when they started talking, and he retained copyright to his work. Lloyd’s films enjoyed only very limited re-release due to his stringent demands: he insisted his silent movies had to be accompanied by organ, not piano; he demanded $300,000 for 2 showings of his films on television. This had the effect of pulling his work out of the public eye, with the result his work is largely forgotten today.
American films released prior to 1923 have expired which is why all his early works are in the Public Domain. Lloyd was careful to keep all his work under copyright, so his subsequent work is protected by copyright for 95 years due to the Sonny Bono copyright extension.

12:30pm “His Girl Friday” ~ Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell (92 min) Copyright Expired

Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell ~ running time: 92 min
His Girl Friday is a derivative work; this is one of many remakes of the successful stage play, “The Front Page.” The original story was about two men; this version made Hildie and Walter an ex-wife and husband. Although it failed to be a huge hit, apparently because audiences thought Cary Grant too much of a light weight for the part, for me, this is the version I like best.

As a result, the studio couldn’t be bothered to renew its copyright. I think at least part of His Girl Friday’s later success on television, video and now DVD formats may well be due to urs Public Domain status. Judging by images on the Internet, it has also enjoyed no small success as a live theatre production. In many ways, this version resonates better with modern audiences.

2:00pm The Fleischer Animated “Superman” ~ Copyright Expired

Fleischer Studios animated Superman short ~ running time: 11 minutes
To my mind, the best film animation of the early part of the 20th Century was produced by the Fleischer Studios Inc., who were also responsible for technical innovations like the rotoscope and sync sound animation. Although Betty Boop and Popeye are their most famous creations, Brothers Max (producer) and Dave (director) Fleischer produced 9 Superman shorts in 1941 and 1942. Unfortunately there was a huge personal falling out between the brothers (ostensibly begun over Dave’s adulterous affair with a secretary) which resulted in their distributor Paramount taking over their business. With Dave Fleischer out of the picture, the remaining Superman films in the series were directed by Dan Gordon, I. Sparber and Max Fleisher’s son-in-law Seymour Kneitel and produced by the re-branded Famous Studios.

2:15pm Sintel ~ Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

The Durian Open Movie Project ~ running time: 14 min
Blender began as 3D animation proprietary software, but a few years ago the corporation that developed it decided to free the software, and they haven’t looked back since. Sintel is the third Blender film made to demonstrate the capabilities of the software. This one is my personal favorite, both because it’ gorgeous and I like dragons. Since the Blender software has benefited from emancipation, it is hardly surprising to find these films were released with a Free Culture license (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0) right from the start.

2:30pm “Sita Sings The Blues“~ emancipated by Nina Paley

Nina Paley‘s classical animation feature film ~ running time: 82 min
Nina Paley’s original vision for Sita Sings The Blues included the public domain recordings by Annette Hanshaw to form the musical score. As it turned out, big media driven “copyright reforms” retroactively extended the copyright term for the sync rights (the particular rights necessary when using recorded music in a film). The long and the short of it is that Nina Paley had to pay gigantic sums to acquire these rights to release her film.

“Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.”
~ Nina Paley, “Correction

As Nina continued to question copyright, she decided to take it to the next level, and so she has since released this wonderful film into the Public Domain.

3:50pm Superman:“The Billion Dollar Limited” ~ Copyright Expired

Why we need Free Culture (in case you didn’t know…)

In the beginning human beings lived in a Free Culture world. If a writer published a play, or an author a novel, this new creative work left his private domain (his mind, home or working space) and entered the Public Domain. Anyone who saw the play performed was free to be inspired to remake it as a new creative work, or to mount their own production of it as is. Anyone who read a book could quote from it or copy it and even sell their own copies if they wanted to.

The grandmother of copyright law was the “Statute of Anne” enacted by Queen Anne in 1710. In spite of the name, “copyright” is a state imposed monopoly, not a “right.” In exchange for limiting the public’s right to copy, learn and share our culture, the copyright monopoly was supposed to encourage good creators to create works to benefit our culture. And maybe it worked that way once. Although originally limited to books, the scope of copyright has spread like cancer to nearly every form of human creativity, and the “limited” terms are so long most of my own culture will be “protected” until long after I am dead. And creators still can’t make a living from their work.

Today’s technology makes it possible for anyone to create our own digital work. Every cell phone is a camera, every school child has access to computers; that’s all you need to make movies. But the minefield of potential copyright infringement and criminalization is enormous. Copyright law is a tangled mess of law written differently in every country, and it can be used against anyone who uses any digital device. We must understand copyright basics for our own protection. Because today copyright law is used to “protect” our own culture from us.

Anything we are free to use as we like is all that remains of Free Culture; everything else is a legal risk. In today’s copyright mad world, creative works that have been Licensed To Share and works in the Public Domain are two sources of Free Culture that we can use legally.


UPDATE: I’ve provided links to all the Free Culture films I presented in LibreTea and Free Culture

Humble Bundle gift card

Like many people I’ve decided to give some video games for Christmas presents this year.

But the games I’m giving are the “Humble Bundle #2” which supports DRM free software made by Independent Video Game companies and the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

The only thing is, I prefer to have gifts in nice packages, so I’ve put together a gift certificate.
Since I’ve done the work already, I thought I’d share the card graphics, so anyone else who is supporting the Humble Indie Bundle is welcome to print the card too. (cc by-nc-sa)

This can be printed as the gift card front:

HUMBLE BUNDLE card front (CC by-nc-sa laurelrusswurm)

This would be the interior bit, or you can just print this on a 4″ x 6″ card as a gift certificate. All you need to do is fill in the Gift URL and you’ve got a lovely package for your Humble Indie Bundle game download code.

HUMBLE BUNDLE gift certificate cc by-nc-sa laurelrusswurm

The Humble Indie Bundle is a time limited offer, only available for a few more days.

Check the site for more details.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Valentines Day

“Tis Valentines Day once again.   This year my family’s hearts are being warmed by our terrific new kittens.   (Nick is curled on my lap as I type. You can see Murray and Nick here. )

A transluscent red heart made from shell
This beautiful heart is a fair trade handicraft purchased from Ten Thousand Villages

I never knew this growing up, but an interesting thing I’ve learned through family tree research was that my paternal ancestor who emigrated from Alsace to Canada was named Valentine.

But of course Valentine’s Day is named for St. Valentine, and over the years (particulary thanks to the greeting card industry) this day has come to symbolize romantic love around the world.

As it turns out, Family Day, the new Canadian Statutory Holiday follows tomorrow.   That’s kind of appropriate as the classic Cole Porter song “Makin; Whoopee” warns, performed by the fabulous Michelle Pfeiffer in this clip from The Fabulous Baker Boys

My son was telling me that in Japan girls make chocolate gifts for their intended beaux, who are then honor bound to reciprocate a few days later with a more substantial gift.   Diamonds maybe?

This next clip from Youtube is the magnificent Marilyn Monroe performing the classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes number Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

Sadly, Marilyn was the classic example of a woman seemingly with everything but actually unhappy in love.   She ended her own life a suicide at the age of 36. [Although speculation abounds; Marilyn’s Wikipedia entry tells us that neither accidental overdose or murder were ruled out.]

Madonna’s rock video Material Girl clearly payed homage to the classic Monroe number.   Happily Madonna is still going strong past the age of 50.   She seems to have a firm grasp on her career and is clearly getting the most out of life.

You go girl!

We’re Off To See The Buskers

Since I’ve been spending so much time trying to raise Canadian awareness of UBB on (my other blog), this blog, >my real blog< here has been suffering from neglect.

Actually so am I.

So I badly needed to get away from the computer. On my niece’s advice we decided to take a break and pop over to see our very first Waterloo Busker Carnival.

We did go, and it WAS great. (Smart niece I have.) So I thought I’d share a few photos with you.

Waterloo Busker Carnival

This is actually the 21st Annual Busker Carnival.

The Flash

We’ve lived near Waterloo for nearly a decade and yet this is the forst time that we actually attended it.


Duke Dreamer

Aerial Angels

Aerial Angels

Aerial Angels

Byron Bertram, Vancouver BC Canada

In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we’re going back again today!

“Robin In The Hood” – Huzzah!

Robin Hood Addresses the crowd from the Tournament Ring (2005).
Robin Hood Addresses the crowd from the Tournament Ring (2005).

This is just a quick heads up:

Saturday June 6th is the

Robin in the Hood Medieval Festival
in Elmira, Ontario.

We’ve been to various medieval Festivals but this one is hands down my favorite because it really makes you feel like you were in the middle ages (in an idealized 21st century way).


Although this medieval festival started as a High School drama department project, now it’s a standalone gig, but still vast quantities of High School students come out every year and get right into the spirit of the thing. This means that there is a huge cast, which of course only adds to the atmosphere. The whole day is an amazing bit of  interactive theatre, and you can get as involved as you like.   It isn’t just the kids who thrive on the sword play.  Many of the visitors come in costume which just adds to the fun. It’s a point of honor with the cast not to break character no matter the provocation.

I was particularly impressed by this angel, one of the many visitors who attend Robin in the Hood in costume.
Costumed visitors to the Robin in the Hood Festival.

There’s a little medieval market with vendors selling everything from costumes to chain mail (and even bags of rings and tools with instructions on how to make your own).

Every year the festival is strung together with a scripted story performed by the cast, but there are also loads of things for visitors to do between times. There is an outlaw school and a knight school where you can learn a bit about medieval life; there’s usually an archery area as well where people can try their hand at firing a bow. There are also a series of medieval games, lawn bowling, memory games, ring toss things, javelin throwing or catapult lessons. Then there are the side shows that are scattered about throughout the park that doubles as Sherwood Forest. There are usually magic shows, story telling, a danger or torture show… most of the ones I’ve seen have been exceedingly funny. Every year I’ve been there has been a “Birds of Prey” exhibit which I think is put on by the university of Guelph. I never tire of seeing Einstein the Owl up close and personal, but the supporting cast differs year to year, usually including a hawk or a falcon.

But of course one of the big thrills is the fight sequences that go on as part of the story in the tournament ring. It’s an incredibly inexpensive outing for a rollicking great lot of fun.

Braveheart meets Robin Hood

Another website with Robin in the Hood photos is:

The Lothlaurien Gallery Photo Album

See you there!