Who Owns the I Have a Dream Speech?
|April 23, 2002||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Braintwister — Who Owns Speeches?
“I Have a Dream” Speech Lawsuit
If a speech such as the “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. develops “commercial value,” who should receive that value? What if the author of the speech is dead? What if the commercial use of a speech contradicts the message of the speech? Somehow, our society must answer these questions. Here are a couple of excerpts from a recent Associated Press report on this problem.
A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit against CBS for use of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, in which the family of the late civil rights leader claimed copyright infringement.
U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley had ruled in July 1998 that King forfeited any copyright interest when he distributed advance copies to reporters without copyright notice, placed no restrictions on what use could be made of the speech and generally encouraged its distribution.
In a hearing before the appeals panel earlier this year, lawyers for CBS argued that the King estate has no right to claim ownership of the footage, which the network shot during the Aug. 28, 1963, rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
With King’s widow and son sitting in the courtroom, lawyer Joseph Beck countered that the speech was King’s most important work and he would not want it used for commercial purposes without his approval.
It is not certain when the court will re-decide the case.
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