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January 27th, 2005

Eyes on the Prize

Thanks to the great folks at Downhill Battle, the seminal civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize is now freely available and nationwide screenings are being organized for part 1. Unfortunately, this wonderful documentary has been in copyright limbo for the last ten years because of clearance issues. This case is a perfect example of why our current copyright system is absurd and in need of serious overhaul (read Free Culture for compelling arguments). What types of things are keeping this film in limbo, you ask?

“Happy Birthday.”

Yes… in a scene in the documentary, some people are singing “Happy Birthday” and somebody owns the rights to that song. So, no matter how ingrained in our culture something like that has become, money needs to be paid if it shows up in a film, even in an incidental fashion.

If you’ve never seen Eyes on the Prize, your local library may have copies on VHS. Or, download the torrents from Downhill Battle. It’s essential viewing, now for two reasons: the original theme of racial discrimination and the more recent theme of copyrights run amok.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Note to John August 30, 2006, 5:10 pm

Whoever owns the copyright to Happy Birthday also owns the copyright to Good Morning To You (even if one, or both, of these two songs had previously escaped copyright) because the two songs share the same tune. It makes less than no sense that Eyes On The Prize should be taken out of every library just because a certain song has been in copyright limbo since 1895 (2006 marks the 111th anniversary of Happy Birthday).

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