Life is a Mystery

27 January 2005

Copywrong

An interesting day of copyright today. Kenneth Crews is with us in Minnesota and gave a great workshop for our staff today (faculty get a taste tomorrow). And when I got home I found Mary excited about a project at Downhill Battle to encourage people to copy Eyes on the Prize. This classic documentary about the civil rights movement of the 1960’s is not in legal distribution because the rights granted for the clips used have expired and new rights have not been cleared yet by the production company. Civil disobedience over copyright issues. Interesting times.So it may be a bit much to ask the Libraries to get on the criminal side of a copyright issue, but what if Libraries around the country (and ours in particular) took part in the Downhill Battle 2/8 Black History Month event to host public showings of episodes of the documentary? Of course, we would not show the illegally downloaded versions from the net, but the legal copies from our collections. The discussion fostered, though, could still be about the difficulty of preserving critical pieces of culture in an era of tough copyright enforcement.

2 Responses to “Copywrong”

Yvette / 28 January 2005 / 8:35am

So, what is your take on people downloading the film from DB and posting it on their blogs. Will Blackstreet’s lawyers come after us? After the U of M? One thing that DB is suggesting is that folks burn copies on dvd and give them to schools and libraries. Do you believe there will be any takers (schools/libraries)? Should there be?

efc / 28 January 2005 / 3:06pm

I would urge careful consideration and caution before engaging in any civil disobedience. This action (downloading a copy of a video under copyright, and remember that downloading via bittorrent means that you are also uploading for some time too) is possibly a violation of copyright and maybe even violates other laws. You could get into plenty of hot water. I would certainly avoid doing this with University equipment, and there is a good chance that the University’s offer of indemnification would not cover you if you take this action. Civil disobedience is never to be taken lightly. Think it through, then do what you think you must do.

I am encouraging the Libraries to consider showing their clearly legal copies of Eyes on the Prize on 2/8. That’s an awfully tight timeframe and we may not be able to pull off an event, but if you are interested in helping out, let me know. I think this would be a great chance to discuss both the history of the civil rights movement and the class of copyright and culture that make it hard to share our history. I don’t think it takes away from the message to use a legal copy from our collection, and I would encourage other libraries and schools to do the same with legal copies they may hold.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org