Part Of Civil Rights Documentary Finally Coming Out On DVD After Years Of Copyright Battling

from the slowly,-but-surely dept

Back in 1988 and 1990, PBS aired the two parts of the seminal documentary Eyes on the Prize about the civil rights movement. Since then, it’s been considered one of the best ways of explaining and showing the civil rights struggle to those who did not live through it. Yet, it soon went out of print, and for years there have been fights to get it released on DVD. The problem? You guessed it: copyright. When the original documentary makers made the film they were only able to secure limited licenses for the archival footage they used, and once those licenses expired, the film was effectively dead in the water. For obvious reasons, this greatly upset some people, who started encouraging people to download copies of the film to get it seen — even if this did upset others who were (loosely) associated with the film, fearing that it would hurt the ongoing negotiations for eventual licensing.

While it’s taken a long, long time, the good news is that part I of the documentary has finally been released on DVD, even though part II is still tied up in licensing problems. While I can understand why some have been upset in linking the issue of civil rights with copyfighting, this seemed like a perfect example of the problems of copyright law today. Allowing this DVD to go forward would, in no way, “harm” the market for the original archival footage. It was a way to get it much more attention — on an incredibly important topic that has deserved much greater awareness. To have all that content mostly locked up for nearly two decades is a real shame, and speaks to the censoring power of copyright law.

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Companies: pbs

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Comments on “Part Of Civil Rights Documentary Finally Coming Out On DVD After Years Of Copyright Battling”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

and it also misses the point that there would still be plenty of footage without copyprivilege laws except that it won’t be covered under such silly restrictions by default, restrictions that make all footage that doesn’t explicitly opt out automatically subject to such restrictions. Since opting out itself requires extra effort, and especially during a time where there were no CC licenses to facilitate the process of opting out of copyprivileges, these laws could end up restricting a lot of footage and causing a lot of footage to get lost in history. and any footage that gets lost to history due to such laws is strong reason why these laws should be done away with. But, of course, TAM supports 95 year restriction lengths for corporations and the lifetime of the extortion artist + 70 years for individuals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow. I saw the original series on PBS, and it was absolutely unforgettable. I still have the book – and I’ll tell you how often I go out and buy the ‘companion book to the PBS series.’ Never.

This also explains why some other video sets are fetching crazy prices on the used market, in VHS format. One in particular you can’t even find to watch on the PBS website, and they have no copies for sale – a fantastic documentary series on the history of the Chicano rights movement. The last time I checked, there wasn’t even a transcript available. (Most everything PBS has ever produced on the network has a printed transcript available to download for free). There must be a copyright issue holding this one up too. What a disgrace.

RD says:

This is a common occurance

There are numerous examples of this “promoting” of the “arts” throughout history.

-Heavy Metal, an animated scifi movie from 1981, was held up from being released on home video for almost 2 DECADES due to copyright issues over the music used in the movie.

-NUMEROUS TV shows are either never released (One episode of Profiler and I think also Pretender) or severely altered from the original (EVERY f-ing episode of WKRP where all the songs had to be changed), all thanks to copy “right.”

Books, movies, music, all locked up behind the wall of copyright. Our collective culture and shared memories are being denied to us, in direct abrogation of the copyright bargain, and to the detriment of the public good for the benefit of the wealthy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is a common occurance

I think some of the blame should fall on content creators. Before technology made it easy to distribute one’s content, sure, they had an excuse to use the big labels/publishers/whatever. Now that it is easy (and as we all know here, more profitable) to release media on a better license and orders of magnitude eaiser to connect with one’s fans and give them a reason to buy scarce goods related to one’s media, how can creators have an excuse not to do this? Not only does it make them more money (which should be enough incentive) but it preserves our culture for the future.

Some artists do this, but we need to see this be the norm, not just repeat the same success stories of Jonathan Coulton and NIN.

AC & Your Sunshine's Banned says:

-NUMEROUS TV shows are either never released (One episode of Profiler and I think also Pretender) or severely altered from the original (EVERY f-ing episode of WKRP where all the songs had to be changed), all thanks to copy “right.”

Same situation with the original “Beavis & Butthead” as well as “The Young Ones”. Music licensing problems caused the dvd editions to be butchered. TYO was so damaged that the storyline actually changed due to the excised music-filled segments.

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