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View Diary: Illegal to Show Landmark MLK Civil Rights Documentary (107 comments)

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  •  I believe the Ford Foundation (none)
    has already given them a grant of $65,000 just to figure out how much it would cost to clear the rights, but that's not even a drop in the bucket.  If the licenses were negotiated in 1989 and lasted for 5 years (which I think most did), intervening library purchases and consolidations mean that many of the rights aren't even held by the people who did originally.  I've been the person who had to chase down underlying rights of copyrighted material for film, and it's extremely complicated and time consuming just to figure out who the hell it is you've got to negotiate with for just one clip or song in the first place, let alone 14 episodes worth.  

    Which is a long-winded way of saying you're right.  Somebody high profile needs to step up & kick down the cash.  While a long-term solution to the underlying problem needs legal remedy, Eyes on the Prize is too important in the short term to let slide into the dustpan of legal bickering.  

    •  Don't mean to second guess Blackside (none)
      but I gotta wonder: didn't they see this coming?  I understand the cost differential would have ballooned the budget, but it seems that the best long-term strategy is to clear life of copyright.

      They could have written their original grants, proposals, etc to cover the addl expense.

      Like I said, I don't want to second-guess cuz I wasn't there, but it does seem a little odd...

      "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by grannyhelen on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:38:33 AM PST

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      •  People who are good filmmakers (4.00)
        aren't always good businessmen.  And since there's so little profit in documentaries to begin with, unless your first name is Michael and your last name is Moore, most documentarians have to do all the grant writing and rights clearances themselves.  Trying to get as much money up on the screen as possible, most negotiate the minimum licenses available hoping that when and if a distributor comes in they will wave a magic wand and their Business Affairs department will make all copyright issues go away.

        What is odd is that PBS, who distributed the series on television and on video, did not have their lawyers get in and sort out the extension of rights issue before they expired.  They probably figured there was not enough profit in it relative to what they would have to spend.  But that's what a Business Affairs department is for.

        •  That's true (none)
          You gotta wonder what PBS was thinking then...5 years on a distribution deal is a pretty short term.

          "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

          by grannyhelen on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:25:20 PM PST

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    •  problem of archival rights (4.00)

      they have.  

       jon else who worked on the series estimates it would cost $500,000 to get the rights restored.

       wired news did an article last month,1284,66106,00.html

       andrew leonard did a follow-up piece for salon

        and there were some letters in response

       the report mentioned in the wired story is here

      Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers

        I first heard else mention this last may when he received an award at the SF film festival.  he said he was able to get full rights for the achival footage he used in the Day After Trinity, his doc on the creation of the atom bomb, but things have change since then including consolidation of the ownership of archives by companies such as Corbis which is owned by Bill Gates.  he brought up Eyes on the Prize as an example.

      •  WaPo rips off Wired? (none)
        thanks for the link to Wired -- I checked out the story there, and the WaPo piece is in many ways a pretty lazy re-write of it.

        Maybe Wired needs to hit up WaPo for some licensing fees; or maybe this is a shameful but more common journalistic practice than I realize.

      •  thanks for those links (none)
        from the Wired article:

        Rights for the series began to expire in the mid-1990s. Renewing them is complicated because Henry Hampton died in 1998, and his production company, Blackside, is now owned by his two sisters, who are not filmmakers.

        A lawyer for Blackside, Sandy Forman, is directing an effort to re-license the lapsed footage. Forman -- along with Kuhn and several other Eyes veterans -- has received a $65,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to research the cost of re-licensing the footage.

        "It's a very important project to bring back and keep in front of the public," Forman said.

        Once the group determines how much it will cost to obtain the rights and any post-production costs associated with the series rebroadcast, it hopes to clear the rights to broadcast the series on television and to distribute it in schools and libraries again. The group will have to find additional funding to license the footage.

        Berkeley's Else estimated it will cost nearly $500,000 to clear rights. Forman hopes to get the series back on television by 2006.

        Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

        by bumblebums on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 11:09:24 AM PST

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      •  that's not that much (none)
        If it's only half a million dollars, surely it could be raised?  Perhaps a White Knight could be found, who would be willing to pay the entire cost.  I mean, Bill Gates probably wouldn't even miss that sum.  It could be great PR for someone.

        Maybe a company such as Coca-Cola or Denny's will step up.  You know, ones that have been accused of racial discrimination.  Coca-Cola paid out 156 million dollars to settle out of court.  Half million would be trivial.  

        Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

        by randym77 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:59:30 PM PST

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