Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Martin Luther King's estate has continued to copyright King's famous " I have a Dream" speech, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The speech cannot be found legally unless a license has been granted by King's estate.
During his lifetime, King did not register the speech with the Registrar of Copyrights. The estate manager’s did so after King's death. They reasoned that the copyright should be extended for the benefit of King's decedents. Others believe that the speech is a piece of history and should be in the public domain. Moreover, many believe that keeping the speech protected under copyright is inherently at odds with King would have wanted people to do with his speech.
CBS, Inc. got into trouble after broadcasting the King speech. Shortly after the broadcast, managers of King’s Estate sued CBS, Inc.. In the case, the court ruled that the speech was classified as a performance and was covered by copyright and remanded the case to back to the district court. CBS, Inc. and the King Estate negotiated a settlement before going back to district court.
See Mark Leiser, King of Copyright: On the 50th Anniversary of 'I have a Dream', MLK's Estate Limits Use of Landmark Speech, The Drum, Aug. 26, 2013.