“Eyes on the Prize” triumphs over copyright complications

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The critically acclaimed documentary Eyes on the Prize is returning to PBS next month. DVDs will also be available for the first six programs. For years, rights clearance complications had prevented broadcast or video sales of both of Henry Hampton’s famed civil rights history series (Washington Post, Jan. 17, 2005; Current, Nov. 21, 2005). In January 2005, the copyright advocacy organization Downhill Battle initiated its Eyes on the Screen project, “a nationwide campaign to distribute digital versions of Eyes on the Prize — the most important civil rights documentary ever made — and have screenings of it in towns and cities across the US on February 8th at 8PM,” in defiance of copyright laws. But Blackside, Hampton’s production company, objected that the event positioned the film as a focal point for copyright reform. Downhill Battle ultimately backed down (background, Wikipedia). The doc last aired in 2006; PBS built a website to accompany that presentation (Current, Aug. 21, 2006).

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