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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sorry, civil rights history is copyrighted.

If you have wondered why "Eyes on the Prize," the PBS documentary series about the civil rights movement, hasn't appeared on television in a number of years — and wondered why you can't rent or buy a copy for your commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr Day — you may be unhappy to learn that music corporations think their copyrights cover archival footage of historical events. Thom Powers writes in the Globe Ideas section:

Thanks to rights restrictions on archival material used in the documentary, the 14-hour chronicle tracing the civil rights movement from the Montgomery bus boycotts in the 1950s to the rise of black mayors in the 1980s can no longer be released in new editions or shown on television. PBS's right to air the film expired in 1993. Meanwhile, the VHS edition has gone out of print and a DVD release would require relicensing. (Complete sets of used videos are currently going for as much as $1,000 on Amazon.)

The lesson seems to be: If you plan to make history, don't you dare sing "Happy Birthday" or "We Shall Overcome" while the cameras are rolling, or nobody will ever be able to afford to watch later. ("'Eyes on the Prize,' Off the Shelf," Thom Powers, Boston Globe 1.16.05)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 16 January 2005 at 11:36 PM

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January 17, 2005 04:10 PM | Permalink for this comment

I'm imagining my high school history teacher becoming a wealthy woman selling off bootleg copies.

I know we saw it when I was there.

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