January 26, 2005
Eyes on the Screen
"Eyes on the Prize", Civil Rights Documentary, To Be
Released Over the Internet Despite Copyright Disputes
A day of public screenings of the legendary documentary,
to be organized for February 8th, 2005
According to some, it's illegal for makers of the civil
rights documentary "Eyes on the Prize" to put it on DVD or
show it in public. But at 8:00 PM on February during Black
History Month, Downhill Battle (downhillbattle.org) is
encouraging Americans to celebrate the struggle and triumph
of the civil rights movement with screenings of "Eyes on the
Prize" in homes and public places with the goal of having a
screening in every major city in America. The campaign is
called Eyes on the Screen.
"Eyes on the Prize" is the most comprehensive and revered
civil rights documentary ever made. But the documentary has
not been available for public viewing for the past 10 years
because of unreasonable copyright laws that impose stifling
restrictions on artists and filmmakers. In one instance,
copyright holders believe they should receive licensing fees
for the song "Happy Birthday," which appears in footage of a
group of people singing to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"To celebrate Black History Month, we believe that "Eyes
on the Prize" should be seen by as many people as possible,"
says Tiffiniy Cheng of Downhill Battle. "The civil rights
movement is just too important for this invaluable resource
to be denied to the public. So, we're going to help
distribute "Eyes on the Prize" to a mass audience and
communities can have screenings."
"Eyes on the Prize is one of the most effective
documentaries ever put together that dealt with civic
engagement," says civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot. "This
is analogous to stopping the circulation of all the books
about Martin Luther King, stopping the circulation of all
the books about Malcolm X, stopping the circulation of books
about the founding of America... I would call upon everyone
who has access to 'Eyes on the Prize' to openly violate any
and all laws regarding its showing."
"Eyes on the Prize" is an award-winning 14-volume
documentary made by the late Henry Hampton, tracking the
Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1965. Clayborne Carson, a
Stanford University history professor, has said, "It is the
principal film account of the most important American social
justice movement of the 20th century" (Wired News, 12/22/04).
"Eyes on the Prize" was the first introduction to the
history of the Civil Rights Movement for millions of
people," says Nicholas Reville of Downhill Battle, "But our
corporatized copyright system is keeping it locked away."
"The situation of "Eyes on the Prize" is a perfect example
of why copyright law isn't working for the public," says
Cheng. "It's ridiculous that this documentary is languishing
in copyright purgatory, instead of being shown in classrooms.
"Eyes on the Screen" is a perfect example of how people can
bring attention to bad copyright law and start turning the
For background, see this article:
Former Leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
Co-Director of Downhill Battle
Co-Director of Downhill Battle
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