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> From: Art McGee <email@example.com>
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> Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 19:07:04 -0800 (PST)
> To: email@example.com
> 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
> 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
> 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
> Copyright (c) 2005, Lycos, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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