Open Access Week 2010

OA in the Arts & Teaching

Performance and panelists including:

No Mickey Mousing: Musical Lineage in a Technological Age
Douglas Geers, Associate Professor, Brooklyn College

Maja Cerar, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Brooklyn College

Douglas Geers is a composer who works extensively with technology in composition, performance, and multimedia collaborations.  Recent works include the 90-minute multimedia theater piece Inanna (2009); an opera, Calling (2008); Sweep, written for the Princeton University Laptop Orchestra (2008); and a violin concerto, Laugh Perfumes (2006). Recent awards include a 2009 Bush Foundation Fellowship Finalist award, a 2008 Argosy Foundation commission, a 2007-2008 McKnight Composer Fellowship, and a 2007 Jerome Foundation Composers Commissioning Project prize. Geers is an Associate Professor of Music, teaching on the faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center and the Brooklyn College Conservatory, where he is Director of the Center for Computer Music (  For more information, please see

Violinist Maja Cerar graduated with honors from the Conservatory Winterthur-Zürich, Switzerland and studied further with Dorothy DeLay and Kurt Nikkanen in New York. Her repertoire ranges from the Baroque to the present, and her stage experience includes performance with live electronics, dance and theater. She earned her Ph.D. in Historical Musicology at Columbia University, with a dissertation on Schubert’s late string quartets. Ms. Cerar frequently works with composers, has premiered numerous works written for her, and has been coached by Beat Furrer, Uros Krek, György Kurtàg, Morton Subotnick, Alvin Lucier, and John Zorn. Currently she teaches as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College and Columbia University.

Session Notes:

Doug spoke about how since the dawn of time people have heard something that they like and repeated it whether it was a song or a poem.  An example of a frequently-repeated work in contemporary culture is the James Brown drum fill “Funky Drummer.”  It has been used by so many musicians that at this point it is difficult to know whose version you may be hearing.  Doug also mentioned plunderphonics, “a term coined by composer John Oswald in 1985 in his essay Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative. It has since been applied to any music made by taking one or more existing audio recordings and altering them in some way to make a new composition.”  Many artists want to share their work but copyright restrictions get in their way.

Maja said that historically taking music from other composers was a gesture of homage.  A student would play his master’s work and pass some of this down to his own students.  Doug and Maja showed how Johann Sebastian Bach inspired the Belgiam composer Eugene Ysaye.  The works of both composers are in the public domain.  Doug was inspired to compose his own piece of electro-acoustic music that took elements from both of these predecessors and put them thru the musical equivalent of a food processor.  In his work he uses a creative commons license so others can use it in their own creative work.  Use does require permission if to be used for profits.

Giving Things Away is Hard Work – Michael Mandiberg

College of Staten Island, Media Culture

Michael Mandiberg is known for selling all of his possessions online on Shop Mandiberg (, making perfect copies of copies on (, and creating Firefox plugins that highlight the real environmental costs of a global economy on ( He is the co-author (with xtine burrough/ of the groundbreaking textbook Digital Foundations: an Intro to Media Design with the Adobe Creative Suite / (AIGA Design Press/New Riders) that teaches Bauhaus formal principles through design software. The book incorporates extensive historical examples from the public domain, and contemporary Creative Commons licensed work. Design *guru* Ellen Lupton ( called the book “engaging” and “ambitious,” Mark Tribe ( has called the book “groundbreaking,” and his peers who see it call it “the book we’ve all be waiting for.” (, a car direction site that incorporates the financial and carbon cost of driving, and Bright Bike (, a retro-reflective bicycle praised as “obnoxiously bright.” A former Senior Fellow at Eyebeam, he is currently Assistant Professor of Design and Digital Media at the College of Staten Island/CUNY. He lives in, and rides his bicycle around, Brooklyn. His work lives at

Session Notes:

Michael Mandiberg talked about the relationship between open access and open source.  He also noted the distinction between “gratis versus libre,”  where there is freedom to use but that there is a cost associated.  He quoted Richard StallmanGNU founder who summarised the difference in a slogan: “Think free as in free speech, not free beer.”

Michael spoke about his work at Eyebeam Lab where being copied was a sign of success.   One example was the lazer etching work of Limore Fried, former Eyebeam fellow and co-founder with Phil Torrone at Make magazine of Adafruit Industries. Adafruit makes a profit doing etching jobs but gives away its code so that others may open similar businesses.

Michael noted that the desire to give things away comes from a desire to see things made better. “We are artists, we make prototypes and give them away. ” It seems Eyebeam developers have struggled themselves when trying to find manufacturers, so having others go the route of getting a product into mass production suits their purposes.   Michael gave an example of Eyebeam trying to sell something unsuccessfully to Urban Outfitters.

Some other ideas that emerged from Eyebeam include Bright Idea Shades for compact florescent lights and Bright Bike, retroreflective tape for night time bike riding.

Writing and selling of his digital foundations – began it on a wiki; used oa images; publisher is aiga and he negotiated a non-commercial CC license; the wiki includes the attributions

When asked how he could tell if one of his ideas was copied and not a product that evolved through parallel evolution, Michael replied that it is hard to tell.

Mandiberg teaches and his students are very receptive to understanding copyright; they take but they know they can get in trouble for taking.  He says about copyright, “I do not think it is a good system but it is the legal system we work under so we have to deal with it.”

Sita Sings the Blues: A Free Culture Success Story – Nina Paley (

Nina Paley is the creator of the animated musical feature film Sita Sings the Blues, which has screened in over 150 film festivals and won over 35 international awards including the Annecy Grand Crystal, The IFFLA Grand Jury Prize, and a Gotham Award. Her adventures in our broken copyright system led her to copyLeft her film, and join as Artist-in-Residence. Prior to becoming an animator Nina was a syndicated cartoonist; she is now re-releasing all her old comics under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. A 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, Nina is currently producing a series of animated shorts about intellectual freedom called Minute Memes.

Full screening of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues to follow panel presentation.

Download the fliers:
Version 1
Version 2
Version 3

Session Notes:

Nina spoke about becoming active in the open culture movement following her experiences working to get her movie Sita Sings the Blues distributed.  She ultimately distributed the film as an open access work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.   Nina urges others selecting CC licenses not to choose hastily non-commercial use licenses, since this is likely to be too restrictive.  Most artists would like to sell their work.  Artist who borrow from other artists are no different, but if they are inspired by and want to borrow from a work holding a non-commercial license, they will then not be able to market their own work.   Because of Nina’s choice in CC licensing, Sita has been incorporated in many ways in other art and products.  For example, a celebration in Hyderabad, India incorporated a statue of Ravana inspired by the portrayal of the character in Nina’s movie.  The A T & T researcher,  Bill Cheswick, created an every-frame-of-a-movie poster using Sita, and MonkeyLectric has created a bicycle wheel video using the Sita image.  Nina says she has made more money giving the film away than she might have if she had copyrighted it and distributed it through traditional channels.  She had been told that she would be fortunate if she made $50,000 on the film, but instead has made $140,000.  People see her movie for free and like it so they buy CD.

Nina suggested that citing all possible sources to credit would be like naming your great great great parents — a nearly impossible task.  She said she wishes copyright was optional and not the default.  “I’m not an extremist.  I am moderate.  An extremist would say corporations should pay repairations for hanging on to copyright.”  Nina suggested that if people were not willing to violate copyright law, a lot of culture would be lost.

When & Where
Wednesday, October 20, 6-9pm @ the Brooklyn College Library, Woody Tanger Auditorium (Directions)


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