eyes on the prize?

[written 02/02/05]

eyes on the prize, the landmark documentary on the civil rights movement, is no longer broadcast or sold new in the united states. it’s illegal,” says a wired article, adding that even pbs, who first aired the documentary, can’t re-broadcast it.

this kind of situation makes even those who are in favor of copyright (and i am not one of those, so ya know) justifiably angry (and it makes me all the more anti-copyright). there have been different responses to this:

downhill battle is trying to organize screenings around the country for feburary 8th with people getting copies from schools, out of libraries, or even their own collections (though on amazon, copies can cost over a thousand dollars!). one history teacher in virginia was organizing a screening for his high school but had to cancel after being threatened with a lawsuit. crrrazy.

the documentary was released, in combination with downhill battle and ‘commen sense releasers’ (good name!), as bit torrents and are floating around. “Lawrence Guyot, former leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, plans to organize a screening… He said that Downhill Battle’s reaction is “precisely what is needed…Our country has a history of laws that we are very proud we have moved away from.”

rick prelinger, of the great prelinger archives that are available to everyone via the internet archive, is trying to organize “fellow archivists.. [to donate] the nonbroadcast educational and classroom use rights needed for this series to be rereleased”, though so far, he hasn’t gotten any responses. this is a great great idea. as archivists, we need to get more involved in the copyright and general intellectual property issues that are being fought and struggled over.

btw, it’s no surprise that though eyes on the prize was such a hit, the producer had a really hard time finding financial backers for eyes 2 which was going to focus “on the rise of the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Black Consciousness Movement, the Vietnam War, busing, and Affirmative Action.”