Eyes on the Prize is only one example of documentaries that are in limbo. The Center for Social Media recently detailed the licensing problem in its November study, "Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers." The study interviewed 45 professional documentary filmmakers and found that rights-clearance costs have risen "dramatically" in the past 20 years, and the process for clearing rights is "arduous and frustrating, especially around movies and music."
"Anyone who intends to make products for mass media is really hostage to the terms of copyright," said Pat Aufderheide, one of the authors of the study and a professor at American University.
It's one way to silence independent voices -- price things up so only the deep pockets of the major media companies can pony up. Of course it's a wash for them when they're charging each other and passing IOUs around.
More on this is in this diary and discussion on Daily Kos.