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Archive for February, 2005

An amazing and incredible direct action this Black History Month

Monday, February 28th, 2005

As February draws to an end we just wanted to thank everyone who has helped make this an incredible Black History Month! The success of the ‘Eyes on the Screen’ campaign embodies the spirit of community and participatory culture, as well as the very energy that inspired thousands to engage in the Civil Rights Movement when it started. To have cultural jewels, such as “Eyes on the Prize,” hidden from the public because of some companies can make a ton of money by doing so, is a travesty. The amount of public support has shown that we are going to keep pushing until things change and we have full access to our history. There have been over 100 screenings of the film in 32 states and there still more planned for March. Lawrence Guyot says, “the important thing is to continue to have screenings”. We also invite you to email bayvets (at) crmvets.org to thank them for all of their amazing help and leadership.

We owe a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this possible—all of the people who organized screenings and lent out their personal copies of “Eyes”; all of the churches, community centers, public libraries, private homes, bookstores, colleges, art galleries and other venues that opened up space for screenings; all of the media sources who helped give this campaign (and the plight of historical documentaries stuck in copyright purgatory) a voice; the American Library Association; all of the community groups who mobilized around this issues; everyone who has blogged about this campaign; the hundreds of people who’ve signed the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement Statement of Support.

Thank you to Congressman Lewis for his support and to Senator Landrieu for writing the anti-lynching resolution and for proposing that federal tax dollars be used to purchase the rights to historical documentaries. Support messages can be sent directly to: Senator Mary Landrieu at: 724 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5824, and to Congressman Lewis at: 343 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202) 225-3801. Please continue to let them know how much we appreciate their work.

Thank you to the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement for their continued commitment to working on issues of free speech and inspiring an environment of engaged involvement, and for writing such a touching statement of support. Thank you to Lawrence Guyot, former leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, for all of your work on this campaign. Thank you to Blackside Inc. and to Henry Hampton for having created such comprehensive, inspiring history of the Civil Rights Movement.

We will keep fighting until copyright law serves the public interest and there is no longer a knowledge vacuum where landmark works of art become entangled in laws that have lost their original spirit; to protect intellectual property, rather than to serve as a hindrance to our collective cultural understanding. Thank you all for helping to make this Black History Month so memorable and amazing!

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A Possible End to Copyright Purgatory

Friday, February 25th, 2005

We owe a big thanks to Senator Mary A. Landrieu (D-LA). She recently proposed the first anti-lynching resolution and has now come out again as a champion of civil rights. Senator Landrieu has proposed that Congress support historical documentaries by using federal tax money to relicense films and make them permanent fixtures in our cultural memory. It is profoundly detrimental to our culture to be kept from our art, our history, our stories and this legislation would ensure that we have access to such history. The goal would be to make seminal, historical work available to everyone who wishes to know a more complete history of the United States and the struggles that have connected generations and people from all backgrounds, without having such works get lost in copyright purgatory. Support messages can be sent directly to: Sen. Mary Landrieu at: 724 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5824. Please let her know how much we appreciate her work!

Free Culture Tour

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

Colin Mutchler is a Free Culture artist and activist who is touring the country with an awesome art and politics performance about free culture, copyright, and Creative Commons. It’s called Free Culture Tour and it brings everything back to what we’re all fighting for: better, freer art and music.

The tour starts on March 12 at SXSW interactive and continues through the spring. Colin will be doing a version of his performance at an event with DJ Spooky in New York April 15th. Should be an awesome event.

If you’re in college or work at a venue, you should definitely look into bringing Colin to your town. It’s worth it. Check the website for details.

Thank you for your support!!

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

We have had so many people, hundreds of people, sign on to the statement of support written by the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. If you haven’t already signed on–sign on here! February is winding down, but we still have screenings happening through the end of this month and into March. Write us to let us know how things are going too at eyes@downhillbattle.org and keep the ball rolling til it’s over. We are glad to share this Black History Month with everyone and make a positive step towards freedom of expression and freedom to innovate amazing actions like this one.

Full-time PHP / Web Developer Wanted

Monday, February 21st, 2005

The Participatory Politics Foundation and Downhill Battle are looking to jointly hire a full time web developer for a variety projects. We need someone who has serious commitment to what we’re doing and professional or pro-level experience. Check out our job announcement (it’ll be a fun job).

New – Blog Torrent for Mac

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Just a quick note to say that there’s a new version of Blog Torrent, and we now support OS X for download and upload. Things are still very rough around the edges, but the hard part is done.

This new version (0.9) also supports MySQL torrent tracking for advanced users. Basic users and small websites can still just drop Blog Torrent in with no database configuration (it’s the easiest Bit Torrent tracker to install by far). Once you’ve installed Blog Torrent, you have the option to enter your MySQL database login and get higher efficiency. And if you make a mistake on the database login info, it will just fall back to using the flatfiles. Very elegant.

With this release, we have the crucial features that we need. From here to 1.0, we need help polishing the interfaces and alerts to make things even simpler, clearer, and more usable. Developers wanted.

Blog Torrent 0.9

Contact Your Senator in Support of Anti-Lynching Resolution

Friday, February 18th, 2005

People are hustling to organize screenings (40 so far and only 17 states have yet to host a screening: DC, AK, HI, MT, ME, RI, LA, MS, WV, MI, ID, NE, SD, ND, KY, MO, WY), so email your friends (or yourself) about going out there to show your support at the screenings or to host one in your town (it’s wicked easy!). I was told by Congressman John Lewis’ aide that his office is working on writing legislation to get “Eyes” into public hands – we don’t have the details, but what? sounds good. At the same time, Sen. Landrieu is in the process of working on very interesting legislation to help “Eyes” and other historical films out (we will divulge more info on this amazing turn of events here in the future). So, in the moments that you take to think about this, know that all of your help has inspired legislators to take action on this issue, has helped to change some of the tides of this political debate, and has carved out a Congressional environment more receptive to legislation on this issue. We owe a big thanks to Lawrence Guyot and Bay Area Vets and you.

Bruce, one of the influential Bay Area Movement Vets writes, “Sen. Landrieu has also written the first of its kind anti-lynching legislation. The U.S. Senate has never passed any anti-lynching legislation. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has introduced a resolution calling attention to the history of lynching and expressing Senate apologies to lynching victims for refusing to pass anti-lynching legislation. While her resolution does nothing to actually stop or punish lynching, it at least raises the issue. But, — to no one’s great surprise– the Republican Senate leadership is trying to block it. According to her legislative aide, Nash Molpus: “The Senate majority is not cooperating with the roll call vote and Senator Landrieu has decided to postpone the passing of it. She is working with the majority leader to get the vote on the record. It could happen on Friday but we are not sure. I will keep you up to date. We want to make sure this resolution gets the proper recognition it deserves.

Please contact your Senators and indicate your support. If your senators are not co-sponsors urge them to do so. And support messages can be sent directly to: Sen. Mary Landrieu at: 724 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5824 . Progress (or lack thereof) through the Senate can be tracked at Thomas by entering “SR.39” as the Bill Number.”‘


And lastly, the Union for the Public Domain, (UPD), which includes people from the EFF have put our ‘Eyes on the Screen’ campaign on their public domain map. Here is the resolution they so commendably discussed over a period of days. Thank you, UPD.

The Copyright Clearance Culture

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

The US copyright office has posted the Grokster briefs in their entirety. They did not ask the permission of the EFF (who is arguing the case for Grokster) or any of the other petitioners for permission to do so– there’s an overwhelming public interest. File this for later as an example of government fair use.

More on fair use: We’ve gotten a huge bunch of signatures on the Movement Veterans statement – partly because these people believe it is time to come up with a way to deal with historical documentaries that can not be easily relicensed (as the following Ford Foundation person suggests), so go ahead and sign on too. Orlando Bagwell, a filmmaker and a Ford Foundation Grants Director involved with the relicensing of “Eyes on the Prize” spells out why it has been hard to relicense “Eyes” – he tells us what they might do if the major labels don’t help to rerelease the film, and lists the many other documentaries sitting on dusty shelves, out of circulation yet not in the public domain. He says clearly that the major labels are a large force stopping “Eyes” from coming back. Click on Orlando to watch:


Why this is confusing

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005

Judy Richardson (amazing producer on “Eyes”) has made a really good point on this issue – that the distinction between the rights of the film owned by Blackside and the rights of the archives in the film owned by the media conglomerates are getting confused. In the Eyes on the Screen campaign, we are up against the laws that the media conglomerates have passed through congress (which are out of control and don’t benefit filmmakers anymore) and we are working against the silence that has let media conglomerates stifle our freedom of speech and our freedom to create for the past 20 years.
But what we are all really working for is to make a month of mass participation and coming together on a political and social issue that touches upon everything from civil rights to social relationships. It’s amazing that tons of people have come together to push the issue their way, the public way. And this why the Movement veterans statement has really touched our hearts (we are turning it more and more into a petition by asking all friends who believe in making this progress to sign on to their statement). And then you can say “huh?” after listening to this recent NPR segment about “Eyes” because although Callie Crossley (another producer on “Eyes”) does a superb job at defending how the public interest makes things go ’round there are two parallel (but not intersecting) conversations going on.

Calling all Friends of the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement

Monday, February 14th, 2005

As many of you know the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement have signed on in support of our campaign and written a touching statement of support. Now we need your help, to let them know how many people care about what’s going on, and to thank them for their years of hard work and commitment to social justice and to further our commitment to bringing socially-good things to the public. Be a friend to the Bay Area Vets by signing their statement of support and then please tell your friends to sign on as well.

Also, there are 30 screenings scheduled through the end of this month and many more planned. Look for one in your city. If you still want to organize a screening there is time, if you need help finding tapes check out or email us for help. We are going to take back our music and culture this Black History month. Our friend Jason thinks we should have national screenings of all the documentaries that PBS doesn’t show anymore, once a week for the rest of our lives – this is what participatory culture is about!