Re: [Videolib] Putting Eyeballs on Copyright Law

Jessica Rosner (
Fri, 11 Feb 2005 11:23:32 -0500

A few final notes on this. While it is great that the attention being
focused on EYES ON THE PRIZE will probably lead to enough funds being
available to clear the rights, most of the discussion on the problems in
copyright law re this, including the article below are well off base. The
problem with EYES was simple & straightforward, it had a lot of footage and
music which like many documentaries was cleared for a set number of years
for sale & broadcast and most of these were expired meaning they needed to
be relicensed. This is an expensive process but fairly run of the mill, even
studios have to do this with things like music, underlying literary rights
etc. While it meant an important film was no longer available for sale &
broadcast, it was not a case of the horrors of the copyright law which was
working as intended to protect the rights of owners whose material had been
licenses roughly 25 years ago. (You would THINK PBS for which this was a
seminal event could kick in some serious money to help out)
The MUCH bigger problems with copyright laws which have been discussed at
length here is the continual extension of its term, now up to 95 years and
the difficulties of applying & updating it to changing technologies such as
the internet & digital formats. I HOPE that the publicity being focused on
EYES might lead to some discussion of these issues but more likely once they
get the money to clear the material , the press & politicians will say the
system worked because it focused on the wrong problems with copyright law.


Proud Resident of a BLUE STATE

Jessica Rosner
Kino International
333 W 39th St. 503
NY NY 10018

> From: Art McGee <>
> Reply-To:
> Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 19:07:04 -0800 (PST)
> To:
> Subject: [Videolib] Putting Eyeballs on Copyright Law
> Wired News
> February 9, 2005
> Putting Eyeballs on Copyright Law
> By Katie Dean
> BERKELEY, California -- Civil rights activists and copyright
> reformers convened for a screening of the first installment
> of the landmark documentary Eyes on the Prize Tuesday night
> to send the message that it is "morally wrong" to deny
> people access to information and history.
> Many of the 30 people (a handful of reporters among them)
> who crowded into attorney Don Jelinek's living room here
> worked in Mississippi and Alabama during the civil rights
> movement themselves -- registering black voters, staging
> sit-ins and marching, as well as getting harassed, shot at
> and jailed. These members of Bay Area Veterans of the Civil
> Rights Movement meet monthly and decided to screen an
> illegal digital copy of the film when they learned that it
> was currently unavailable for broadcast or on DVD.
> As Wired News first reported, Eyes on the Prize, which
> debuted on PBS in 1987, can no longer be broadcast on
> television and has never been released on DVD due to a
> tangle of licensing issues. When the film was first made,
> each piece of newsreel footage, photograph and song used in
> the 14-part series had to be licensed from its copyright
> holder. Due to limited funding, the filmmakers could only
> afford to buy rights to the material for a certain number of
> years, and now those rights have expired.
> The unavailability of Eyes on the Prize prompted activist
> group Downhill Battle to organize screenings of the film
> across the country. About 100 screenings were planned for
> Tuesday in honor of Black History Month, according to the
> group.
> In Berkeley, Eyes on the Prize: Awakenings, covering 1954 to
> 1956, was screened on a large PC monitor to the rapt
> attention of everyone squeezed into the living room. The
> film covered significant events in the beginning of the
> civil rights movement like the murder of Emmett Till and the
> Montgomery bus boycott.
> "The events, images, narratives and songs of Eyes on the
> Prize were not written, created or performed by the
> corporations who now have the copyrights under their lock
> and key," said Bruce Hartford, reading from a statement
> signed by the 20-plus members of the Bay Area Veterans of
> the Civil Rights Movement group.
> "These folks are burying our history," said Jelinek, who
> spent three years in the South working for the Student
> Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, spending some of that
> time ducking gunfire. "Copyright law was never meant to
> interfere with the public's right to know. We expected that
> the experiences would be in the public domain.... The people
> who are barring this will have to pay a price."
> Because only limited VHS copies of the series were available
> through libraries and schools, Downhill Battle directed
> people to download digital versions of the film (made by an
> anonymous group called Common Sense Releasers) using a
> peer-to-peer application -- that is, until a lawyer for
> Blackside (the production company that created the series)
> asked the group to remove links to the film from its
> website.
> The setback didn't stop the screenings. Many hosts checked
> tapes out of the libraries and Tom Hunt, one of the co-hosts
> for the showing in Berkeley, downloaded the first film in
> the series before Downhill Battle took down the links.
> Before the film, Hunt read a portion of Article 1, Section 8
> of the U.S. Constitution, which gives authors and inventors
> ownership rights for a limited time "to promote the progress
> of science and useful arts." Then he gave a brief overview
> of how the length of copyright ownership has been extended
> many times over, making it difficult for documentary
> filmmakers to "do history."
> Like people in the film, which highlights ordinary citizens
> who worked alongside leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. in
> the movement, former civil rights workers in attendance
> spent the evening sharing their stories. Wazir Peacock,
> whose father worked on a cotton plantation as a
> sharecropper, talked about how he gave up a career in
> medicine to work in the Mississippi Delta registering blacks
> to vote. Peacock said he got involved in the civil rights
> movement after being outraged that grown black men were
> still treated like little boys by racist southern whites.
> "It hurt me to my very soul," Peacock said.
> Jimmy Rogers became involved in the movement while he was a
> student at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). He
> described witnessing the murder of white seminarian Jonathan
> Daniels in Alabama. Daniels' murderer was acquitted. He also
> worked alongside Sam Young, another student at Tuskegee
> involved in the civil rights movement, who was murdered at a
> gas station.
> Blackside and other filmmakers who lent their talents to
> Eyes on the Prize are currently working to assess the costs
> of re-clearing rights. An estimate of such costs is expected
> within weeks. Blackside's attorney said the company wants to
> make the series available again.
> Hunt said he was very pleased with the turnout and the
> message that the screening sent.
> "It's showing how dysfunctional the current copyright system
> is," Hunt said. "It's in the way of the artists and their
> audience."
> Copyright (c) 2005, Lycos, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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