1.27.2005

Copyright vs. History

An interesting act of civil disobedience is happening in the form of a re-release of Eyes on the Prize, arguably the most important civil rights documentary ever made. A quote from Wired:
"Old VHS tapes that remain in schools and libraries were the only way to view the landmark series, until now. Downhill Battle enlisted the help of a group called Common Sense Releasers to digitize the series and convert it to MPEG-4 format for distribution on the internet. The group hopes people will organize community screenings of the series around the country."
You can read more about it at Wired or at the project homepage. I worked with the DownHill Battle guys who helped with the release of the Tsunami Videos which also use BlogTorrent. They really know their stuff. It's amazing what can happen when a group with a cause also happens to know how to write software. The fact that someone is breaking the law if they download this and show it to their kids seems fundamentally flawed to me. If you're feeling dangerous, grab the film here. They've done a good job with the server, I heard from a friend that you can download it at 400kB/s right now, not too shabby.

Documentaries should be released to the public domain after fewer years than a typical film in my opinion. Especially if the owners are unwilling to re-release it for the public good. There are signs of hope. The US Copyright Office is attempting to address this issue and is requesting your input
The Copyright Office seeks to examine the issues raised by ``orphan works,'' i.e., copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public. This notice requests written comments from all interested parties. Specifically, the Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.
Read the whole thing here.

Update: I'm going to pull the old Blogger vs. Mainstream Media thing. The Wired article isn't technically accurate. You can buy Eyes on the Prize here for $775. It wasn't hard to find either. The fact that it's VHS only (and expensive) restricts its availability to some degree but it's a tough call saying that it should be totally free. Should all films with historical value that are only available on VHS be pirated? If the owners are smart they will re-release the documetary on DVD due to the free publicity generated by DownHill Battle and everybody will be happy.

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