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Copyright and the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Copyright and the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King ImageToday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most powerful, meaningful and important speeches in U.S. history. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance the speech had and continues to have on the civil rights movement, race relations and U.S. history in general. That 17-minute speech, given on August 28, 1963, continues to echo today with people of all stripes.

However, use of the speech is still strictly limited. Though King’s heirs have made the speech available for educational use, or at least declined to take action against educators, they have a long history of taking legal action against others who use the speech, including TV stations, newspapers and documentaries.

This has led to criticism from other civil rights leaders and has made it difficult for others to use the speech, even as they seek to honor it on the 50th anniversary.

Though the impacts of this enforcement are clear, including limiting access to the speech online, it also has sparked a separate copyright debate. That debate reached something of a climax in Jaunary of this year when, on the one year anniversary of the defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act, some copyright activists posted illegal copies of the speech online to celebrate “Internet Freedom Day”.

This makes it worthwhile to not just take a look at the impact the speech has had on our nation’s history, but also on copyright and just how the protectionist approach the King estate has taken has impacted copyright law itself.Continue Reading