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Monday, January 17, 2005

The Prize

Today marks the observance of the birthday of legendary civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. His life and works largely speak for themselves, and any commentary I might offer runs the risk of being superfluous.

However, perhaps the most poignant chronicle of the struggle of King and his civil rights brethren, the award-winning documentary film "Eyes On The Prize," may become unavailable to future generations.

Unfortunately, due in large part to mass media consolidation, rights to the archival footage seen in the film, have become prohibitively expensive.

When questions about the consitutionality of the latest blanket extension of the copyright term emerge, or one notes that the various "fair use" exceptions to copyright law are under attack, it's the sort of thing that resonates mostly in the rarefield atmosphere of law journal articles or scholarly journals.

Those of us who believe that the balance of intellectual property protections have shifted too far in favor of the content monopolies are usually stuck arguing in the abstract, and attacked for being on the side of bootleg movies or software pirates.
For me, more than anything else, it's about the continued propagation of culture, of memory - of not allowing an ever-smaller group of media conglomerates effective veto power over the images and words that make up our cultural history and dialogue.
It's rare that we as a people and a culture ever get such a tangible cost to surrendering so much control over our culture to corporate entities as this one, but this case is particularly striking; in that sense, and in that sense alone, is the threat of the disappearance of "Eyes On The Prize" a blessing.


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