February 9, 2005 (Mountain View, CA) – On February 8, 2005, the famous civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965)—which originally aired on PBS in 1987—was screened at more than 100 homes and small venues across the country as part of Black History Month. This was the first time Eyes on the Prize had been screened publicly in over a decade; the documentary was largely unavailable during this time because it was in "copyright purgatory."
When the filmmaker Henry Hampton put together this series in the 1980s, he did not have enough money to buy perpetual rights to the news footage, music and other copyrighted material used in the documentary. For example, there is a scene in which the copyrighted work "Happy Birthday” is sung to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After the short-term rights expired about a decade ago, it became impossible, as a practical matter, to purchase or distribute further copies of the film.
Downhill Battle, along with some concerned former leaders of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, initiated the campaign to promote nation-wide public screenings of the documentary. Fenwick & West has provided pro bono counsel to Downhill Battle about the copyright and fair use issues involved, and—after Blackside, Inc., which owns the copyrights in the series, charged Downhill Battle with copyright infringement—Fenwick & West represented Downhill in negotiating a resolution of the dispute.
For more information on the campaign, please visit
To see some of the venues that participated in the February 8, 2005 screening of Eyes on the Prize, see http://www.downhillbattle.org/eyes/screenings/.
For more than 30 years, Fenwick & West has served its community by offering legal services to persons and organizations that could not otherwise afford effective legal counsel. In the past two years, Fenwick & West attorneys have logged well over 14,000 pro bono hours and have been recognized for both the volume and the quality of their work. To encourage pro bono legal services, Fenwick & West recognizes all approved pro bono work as "billable" hours for all purposes for non-partner attorneys.
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