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Illegal to Show Landmark MLK Civil Rights Documentary

The seminal 1987 documentary series Eyes on the Prize, which ran on PBS and covered the American Civil Rights Movement and the landmark struggles of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others for civil rights in the US, can no longer be shown on television or released on DVD.

“I would call upon everyone who has access to ‘Eyes on the Prize’ to openly violate any and all laws regarding its showing,” says civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot, who led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and today is a program manager for the D.C. Department of Human Services.

Like most documentaries which need to keep the costs of production down in order to get made, the original licenses negotiated for video, music and photographs were for a limited term, and due in large part to media consolidation over the past decade, the costs of renewal of those rights have skyrocketed.  It demostrates the legal battlelines that are emerging between the likes of Disney, Time/Warner and News Corp., which seek to exert ever more monopolistic control over copyrighted material, and those who feel that greater availabililty is in the public interest.  

Eyes on the Prize is one of the most effective documentaries ever put together that dealt with civic engagement.  This is analogous to stopping the circulation of all the books about Martin Luther King, stopping the circulation of all the books about Malcolm X, stopping the circulation of books about the founding of America,” says Guyot.

According to the Washington Post, the only option for teachers and librarians who are trying to replace worn out VHS copies of Eyes on the Prize is bidding on eBay, where rare copies are selling for as much as $1,500.

A few high-profile token lefties do not a “liberal media” make. The truth is that there is an inherent conservative bias to the profit-driven Lords of Hollywoods and their constant push for the destruction of any limitation to the consolidation of their power, and this is a classic example of how the public suffers in the wake of it.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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