Downhill Battle is staging screenings of the copyright-imprisoned civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. They’re offering BitTorrent downloads of the film.
So why has Eyes on the Prize been unavailable for the past 10 years? Copyright restrictions. For example, the film includes footage of a group of people singing “Happy Birthday” to Martin Luther King. Incredibly, “Happy Birthday” is under copyright and some rights holders believe that they should be given licensing fees if the song appears in any film, even a documentary. (Yes that’s correct, “Happy Birthday” is restricted under copyright–so if you’ve ever sung it in a restaurant or a park, you could literally be breaking the law.)
But “Happy Birthday” is just the beginning. Eyes on the Prize is made up of news footage, photographs, songs and lyrics from the Civil Rights Movement that are tangled up in a web of licensing restrictions. Many of these licenses had expired by 1995 and the film’s production company, Blackside, could not afford the exorbitant costs of renewing them. “Eyes on the Prize” has been unavailable to the public ever since.