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Archive for January, 2005

Urgent Emails Need Help

Monday, January 31st, 2005

We are getting a ton of emails from people voicing their concerns about not being able to find Eyes on the Prize anywhere. As you may know, you can’t get copies anywhere except your local library and maybe a well to-do school or two. You can read what people have been emailing us here and there is a french translation of Eyes on the Screen here, done by Jean-Baptiste. But most importantly, if you have a copy or a library near you – host a screening so people have a place to watch the most important civil rights documentary ever for the first time in 10 years (go for February 8th, if you can). Also, we heard that all 6 Cincinnati public libraries have complete copies of Eyes on the Prize and there has been a special call to get a screening in Cincinnati! Let’s get all copies checked out of libraries on Feb 8!

What We Have Been Doing

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

Hi Everyone,

As you may have heard, we have taken the torrent links down from Eyes on the Screen on the request of lawyers for the company that made the film. We don’t agree with them about the situation, but we’re not interested in fighting them on this– we want to keep the focus on the importance of this film and how crucial it is to bring it back to the public. On a really amazing note – from which you can make your own judgment – Louis Massiah, a producer on Eyes on the Prize is holding a screening on Feb 8th at his really great non-profit filmmaking-empowerment center, Scribe Video. If you live in Philly, support Louis Massiah and spend your 4:00 kickball time with the man himself and his high school students. If you live in West Philly, you can download flyers, post them at the co-op and at restaurants like Abyssinia and help bring everyone to the celebration of Eyes on the Prize.

All the screenings are really great – if you are in Vienna, VA there is a 750-person screening at James Madison High School. I spoke with the teacher who is organizing this and he’s excited to bring the film to his community – or your community called Vienna. There are screenings in 19 other cities, so look for one in your hometown here.

People have been helping out a lot. Civic leaders, working class people, union organizers, lawyers, artists, religious people and many others have been stepping forward and offering their help in this large organizing effort – we’d like to thank everyone for their awesome help. We will be looking forward to good things to come from all of this. And great people have been making flyers to help everyone get the word out about these screenings – you can look at or print them by going here.

16 Screenings- Add Yours

Friday, January 28th, 2005

We’re so pleased with all the excitement to host screenings of Eyes on the Prize, the feedback we’ve been getting is amazing. As I write this, there’s already 16 screenings posted and more being planned. And, please– join the effort. Try calling local community centers, artist spaces, indy rock venues, etc– see if they have a space available on February 8. The one that we’re planning in Worcester is happening at a community art gallery. If you’re in college, it should be easy to find a spot on campus and sign out a projector. And your school library might even have the tapes.

Many of you have written to say that you’re hosting screenings in your homes, which is great– and it would be great if you could post it even if you know it’s already full (just leave off your address and say that it’s full).

And once you have a screening planned, you can use these flyers that have been sent in to help publicize it. Even better, use some or all of our press release, add the event info, and send it to your local papers. Or just call them! There’s a really good chance that they’ll do a story in advance.

Building up Steam

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

eyes on the screen
Put this button on your site!

So Eyes on the Screen is off to a great start. We’ve been getting some very good blog attention and there are already 4 screenings listed. Four might not sound like a lot, but consider that these are just the people who saw the site and were able to post a time within a few hours– this is just getting started.

People have sent in some nice flyers for publicizing screenings. You can fill in the time of a screening and getting those copies printed. And Morgan has made some great website buttons that you can post too– take a look. We’re thinking of using a version of the big one as a logo for the front page.

And, I can’t emphasize enough that if you’ve never seen these films or haven’t watched them in years, they are wonderful and you shouldn’t miss it. The motivation to get this back out to the public comes straight from the amazing power of the films and the story. It’s just shocking to think that this stuff has been so tangled in copyright that people have been unable to get it and that schools have been unable to find it for their classes. On the Eyes page we quote this Globe and Mail article:

This is particularly dire now, because VHS copies of the series used in countless school curriculums are deteriorating beyond rehabilitation. With no new copies allowed to go on sale, “the whole thing, for all practical purposes, no longer exists.” – The Globe and Mail quoting Jon Else, a filmmaker who worked on Eyes on the Prize

and Lawrence Guyot (who’s now a part of the Eyes on the Screen team) who said:

“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.”

It’s really pretty unbelievable. Enough talk, go organize a screening already– you’ll be really happy that you did. Yes, that Worcester one is ours.

Eyes on the Screen

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

This is a big one.

We are proud to present: Eyes on the Screen. (eyesonthescreen.org).

It is a nationwide campaign to distribute digital versions of Eyes on the Prize– the most important civil rights documentary ever made– and have screenings of it in towns and cities across the US on February 8th at 8PM.

Eyes on the Prize has been unavailable for ten years because of overwhelming copyright licensing disputes. If you haven’t already, you really, really need to read this Washington Post article that came out on MLK Day about this terrible state of affairs. This could be the clearest example we know of that shows how copyright expansionism is hurting our shared culture. Simply because of the overwhelming costs of securing rights to historical footage – you can’t buy Eyes on the Prize on video or DVD and copies on eBay cost $1500. Your local library might still have a copy of it because libraries are awesome like that (they still need help making sure their VHS copies don’t wear and tear though). But thousands of schools that have used Eyes on the Prize as the most powerful way to teach about the Civil Rights Movement, can’t do that anymore. It’s a shame. So, download Eyes on the Prize now and help make sure there is a screening in your town on February 8th by going to or hosting one.

Coal Deployed 1/21/05

Monday, January 24th, 2005

The RIAA and MPAA are gonna cry over this one. In December, we promised that we’d send a piece of coal to the RIAA and MPAA for every $100 donated that month to their wonderful enemies iPac, Public Knowledge and EFF. It turns out that the RIAA and MPAA have earned 1,558 pieces of coal. We just got the total tally the other day and EFF raked in a isht-ton. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that much coal to send or to put it another way, we needed to make more pieces…. here’s our epic adventure: Sending Coal to the RIAA. Thanks everyone and thanks to Matt T. for living in Massachusetts, having coal in his garage and giving it to his girlfriend to give to us.

Friendly P2P

Friday, January 21st, 2005

The gaim filesharing project is starting to heat up again. We’ve found someone to be the lead developer on the project, and there’s still bounty money left for other volunteers. I’m fairly sure that I’ve added everyone who asked to the mailing list, but if somehow I missed you, subscribe now.

Tools like this are important because they make filesharing and p2p part of people’s everyday computing experience. Everything we do that makes access to the amazing library of music on the internet easier makes it harder for the bad guys to make these technologies illegal. We need all the help we can get. Even if you’re not a coder, you can help out by writing documentation, making web pages, or doing testing.

Banned Music

Thursday, January 20th, 2005

A few months ago, the BannedMusic.org tracker went down and we’ve been so busy that we didn’t have a chance to get it going again. But now that we have Blog Torrent, it’s easy. So… our apologies to everyone who has tried in vain to download the Grey Album or the Double Black Album recently, both of those should be working fine now. Go for it.

Banned Music was the first time that we experimented with the “Easy Download” idea of wrapping a BitTorrent installation along with a torrent file. It was a huge pain in the ass. As Holmes said yesterday, “Now we have a machine that does it for us!” Very satisfying indeed.

We just had a group field trip to the driveway where we smashed coal into small pieces with a hammer. Photos (and explanation) forthcoming.

Long Live “Power to The People” aka “Eyes on the Prize”

Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

From my email: someone smart has pointed out that there is a new trademark phrase upon us: “Power to the People”. This newly-trademarked phrase is being touted by their owners in E-Trade ads on CNBC. According to E-Trade’s financial help center, this is the definition of a trademark: “A distinctive name, symbol, motto, or design that legally identifies a company or its products and services, and sometimes prevents others from using identical or similar marks. see also intangible asset.” It was also pointed out that the Black Panthers and SDS are known as the first-users and John Lennon has a copyrighted sound recording of the same name. This phrase, in particular has an important diachronic history of coming into being when oppressed people have felt the visceral or proverbial power of the few upon them – the many. But because a trademark is divorced from that history and progress, “Power to the People” can’t be used/found by oppressed people in the same way again. E-Trade!!! I think there is a clear point of trademark absurdity here.

My point is this: Trademarking non-original phrases detemporalizes the phrase and attaches it to nothing more stagnating than a change-aversive object called a company. But in common usage, words and phrases take on special meaning as they fold into culture and society, while people use the phrase and change it as situations see fit. A company’s slogan is fitted to an image of themselves that is specially designed to be set in place. So, when a common phrase is a slogan, that phrase has no chance to be adapted by a person/group in a more perfect situation for that phrase. The company’s fabricated image stymies the phrase from developing and changing. Without killing my ego, I’ll give this one to the “kills innovation” argument. Commercial jingles can be argued to do the same to songs, though songs are not as sub-consciously a part of vernacular and are not as easily thrown around.

Here’s the historical tale of this object of delight according to William Safire.

Reviving GAIM p2p

Monday, January 17th, 2005

So, time for a long-overdue update on the GAIM filesharing client that we have been planning and that we raised $1332 for in November. We were offering a $500 bounty for the programmer that can do the project and we had someone that we thought was really good apply to do it. We even got a sourceforge page setup and picked a name “Friendly”. Since then, this guy has gone totally AWOL and hasn’t done a thing, and we’re finally giving up on him and starting over.

So… we’re back to an open call for developers. This time, we’re going to offer $1,000 to the programmer that can take this on in a timely fashion. And we’re going to leave the $332 up to their discretion– if they want to use it to put a mini bounty on a certain feature, so be it. And if they want to just do it all themselves, that’s cool too. We just want to get it done and soon. So, please spread the word to coders far and wide and if you’re interested, email labs|at|downhillbattle.org and let us know what your experience is and how quickly you can dig in. This isn’t just interesting, it’s important!