Thursday, January 27, 2005

For whose eyes only? 

Here's a moral dilemma: I came across this page (via China of all places) about the film Eyes on the Prize. To quote the site:
Eyes on the Prize is the most important documentary ever made about the Civil Rights Movement--but copyright restrictions have kept it from the public for the past 10 years. We can't let that continue. On February 8th help us bring this film back to a nationwide audience. Get the film today and organize a screening in your city or town.
I've never seen the film, so I have to take their word for it regarding its importance. I am rather sympathetic towards their cause. While I respect the right of creators, even souless corporations, to profit from their creations, I think that copyrights are lasting a little bit too long. And I'm all for educating the public about the struggles of the people of our nation.

On the other hand, I have to wonder what exactly is hampering the distribution of this film. The only specific footage mentioned is a sequence showing "a group of people singing 'Happy Birthday' to Martin Luther King." It is pretty pathetic that a documentary would be required to pay royalties for such a scene. But if the film makes extensive use of other people's footage, then they have a right to be fairly compensated. If this film is as vital to the public as the site claims, the public should reward the people who endeavored to bring it to the screen. I have to wonder if the folks organizing the screenings would be willing to take up a collection to finance further licensing of the copyrighted footage?

Anyway, like many issues, I find myself stuck somewhere between the partisans.