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Martin Luther King Jr's Children In Court Over MLK IP 344

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-have-a-sad-depressing-dream dept.
cervesaebraciator writes "Slashdot has reported before about the copyright nightmare of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' Speech. Now, questions of intellectual property and the legacy of Dr. King have caused his children to go to court. The estate, run by King's sons, claims the rights to the intellectual property and memorabilia of Dr. King as assets. Accordingly, it has filed suit against the non-profit Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change, run by King's daughter, for plans to continue using King memorabilia once a royalty-free licensing agreement expires, (which the estate says will be in September). As is the case with increasing frequency, one is left to wonder about the implications intellectual property claims have for free speech when they can be applied to so public a figure as Dr. King."
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Martin Luther King Jr's Children In Court Over MLK IP

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @02:48PM (#44759161)

    MLK's legacy capitalizing on MLK's legacy.

    Go for it kids!

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      MLK's legacy capitalizing on MLK's legacy.

      Go for it kids!

      Maybe they should just sell the whole kit and caboodle to Disney and watch it really get run into the ground.

      Does anyone else ever notice the color of Mickey?

      • by msauve (701917)
        "Does anyone else ever notice the color of Mickey?"

        Did you ever notice that Mickey has a peer, Goofy, who's a dog. He also has what's obviously a slave dog - Pluto.
      • Re:End of a Dream (Score:5, Insightful)

        by meerling (1487879) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:02PM (#44759327)
        As far as I'm concerned (ianal), the "I have a dream" speech was a historical, public, and defining of an important part of our society. It can't be copyrighted. Any lowlife trying to capitalize on that should be thrown in jail.
        • Re:End of a Dream (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:23PM (#44759567)

          That the is whole idea behind the royalty-free organization that is going to court. They still own it. The summary sounds like a conflict of interest between siblings. The one that runs the organization to promote Reverend King's ideals, and the other siblings that want to cash in on the property. Am I understanding this correctly?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @05:14PM (#44760757)

          But without the benefit of copyright, Dr. King will have no motive to continue giving exemplary speeches in the future.

        • As far as I'm concerned (ianal), the "I have a dream" speech was a historical, public, and defining of an important part of our society. It can't be copyrighted. Any lowlife trying to capitalize on that should be thrown in jail.

          And in the worst case, perhaps speeches are fungible [theonion.com]. :-)

        • by Zemran (3101)

          "As far as I'm concerned (ianal), "

          Dear Sir

          We request that you cease and desist from the use if the iAnal trademark registered as part of Apple's marital aids portfolio. We require that you immediately remove the offending post and never use the term again.

          Yours etc.

    • Re:End of a Dream (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:04PM (#44759351)

      MLK's legacy has largely been decimated by those who claim to support him the most.

      One of his most famous sayings was that he had a dream that his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

      People like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who are now seen as civil rights leaders, basically threw that out completely.and shit on it at almost every turn. Groups like the NAACP are pushing for criminal prosecution of, for example, the rodeo clown who made fun of Obama, even though people in much bigger areas of the limelight have done much worse things to make fun of other presidents. George Zimmerman would never have seen prosecution if he was black or Trayvon was white; guilty or not the evidence just wasn't there which is why they originally chose not to prosecute, and only did so after pressure from racial groups, which goes to show that in America, now the only requirement for prosecution is that public opinion be against you regardless of whether or not you can be proven guilty.

      And how are programs like affirmative action following in that spirit? They tell you that, for example, if you have slanted eyes then you immediately deserve lower preference than anybody, but if you have black skin then you automatically get to be first in line.

      What a joke the civil rights movement has become.

      • Re:End of a Dream (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TWiTfan (2887093) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:34PM (#44759693)

        he had a dream that his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

        In that case, they've been judged a bunch of selfish, greedy pricks.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Princeofcups (150855)

        People like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who are now seen as civil rights leaders, basically threw that out completely.and shit on it at almost every turn. Groups like the NAACP are pushing for criminal prosecution of, for example, the rodeo clown who made fun of Obama, even though people in much bigger areas of the limelight have done much worse things to make fun of other presidents. George Zimmerman would never have seen prosecution if he was black or Trayvon was white; guilty or not the evidence just wasn't there which is why they originally chose not to prosecute, and only did so after pressure from racial groups, which goes to show that in America, now the only requirement for prosecution is that public opinion be against you regardless of whether or not you can be proven guilty.

        And how are programs like affirmative action following in that spirit? They tell you that, for example, if you have slanted eyes then you immediately deserve lower preference than anybody, but if you have black skin then you automatically get to be first in line.

        What a joke the civil rights movement has become.

        Nice spin. Great the way you worked your agenda in there, in the guise of "well if this is true, then the rest of what I have to say must be true to." Considering that King was reviled by a large hunk of America, and still is (see "Robert E. Lee Day), I guess the current civil rights leaders must be doing a decent job. From where I'm standing, Zimmerman was about a crazy vigilante who got off because his victim was black and the trial was in Florida. Quite different from your perspective.

        • Re:End of a Dream (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @04:46PM (#44760495) Journal

          Considering that King was reviled by a large hunk of America, and still is (see "Robert E. Lee Day)

          Great. Now I have an image of Dr. King astride a warhorse, leading his sword at full gallop, and charging Confederate positions alongside Sherman in Atlanta.

          What the hell, dude?

          Let's get a couple of things straight here...

          Point The First: Historical celebrations of events long passed does not automatically denote an adherence to the babblings of some backwoods sheet-donning inbred.

          Point The Second: while racism is certainly not dead yet, I can tell you for damned certain that it's currently suffering from a fatal case of terminal neglect. Clue: *ACTUAL* racism has faded so badly that certain ideologues have to invent new meanings of the word (e.g. "I disagree with Obama" == "racist" in some quarters), just to keep the outrage flowing and (more importantly) the campaign coffers full.

          Point The Third: Jesse Jackson and his ilk have been waving Dr. King's bloody shirt for decades now, shaking down individuals and corporations alike for agreement, compliance, and (again, more importantly) money. They have contributed absolutely nothing towards the elimination of racial hatred, and I daresay they have incited more than a little.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @02:48PM (#44759171) Homepage Journal

    I'm certain Michael Jackson's surviving relatives could teach them some real lessons about infighting and degrading the overall value of the property with unseemly squabbles.

    i had a dream...

  • Parasitic leeches. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @02:49PM (#44759177)

    Dr. King was certainly a very positive agent of change in the world. Too bad his children now exemplify everything that is wrong with it.

    • by cdrudge (68377) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:05PM (#44759359) Homepage

      They exemplify EVERYTHING that's wrong with it? I can think of far, far more examples of things that they aren't exemplifying that's wrong with the world.

      This is a family disagreement that has spilled over to an organization tied to the family. Yes it's ugly. Yes MLK probably would have non-violently spanked all his kids over it. But it's hardly exemplify what's wrong with the world.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flimflammer (956759)

        Greed? Yeah, I'd say that's pretty much the basis for almost everything wrong with the world, when it comes to mankind.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Dr. King was certainly a very positive agent of change in the world. Too bad his children now exemplify everything that is wrong with it.

      Yes. Irony overload.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      All his children? Or just the ones trying to profit? Perhaps you should think before you paint everybody with the same brush?
  • I don't think... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I don't think this was part of King's dream.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I don't think this was part of King's dream.

      Certainly is giving some lawyers verrrry interesting dreams - now matter how badly this rolls for the family and perception of them fighting over ownership of the legacy, the lawyers will still collect their due.

      It's the American dream.

    • I don't think this was part of King's dream.

      Though, if you don't want to be judged by the color of your skin, being filthy stinking rich is a better tactic than most... (also a pretty good way to avoid being judged by the content of your character; but hey!)

    • You may be right, and people tell me that the "I have a dream" speech expresses complex ideals not easily simplified. But to investigate further would be to needless intrude on well established intellectual property rights, and therefore I will have to rely on half remembered paraphrases and misquotations.

  • I have a dream (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SleazyRidr (1563649) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @02:50PM (#44759189)

    I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the contents of their IP portfolio. Where they can use their last name to profit from my legacy.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the contents of their IP portfolio. Where they can use their last name to profit from my legacy.

      Tell me about the dream!

      As is the case with increasing frequency, one is left to wonder about the implications intellectual property claims have for free speech when they can be applied to so public a figure as Dr. King."

      Never mind it was a public performance, with the most memorable part of the speech being ad-libbed by Dr. King.

      He must be doing about Warp 6 in his grave.

      • by thaylin (555395)
        Why, he is the one who got a copyright on it.
      • Re:I have a dream (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:02PM (#44759325)

        It wasn't quite ad-libbed. Dr. King had already given a good portion of the "I have a dream" speech at a smaller rally in Detroit, but had cut that part from the speech that he was to give in Washington, as he didn't want to look like he was repeating himself. The story goes that midway through his speech at the March on Washington, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted, "Tell 'em about the dream, Martin!" as you allude to in your post. At which point Dr. King uttered the famous line, "I still have a dream." The members of the crowd that had been at the Detroit rally began cheering, because they knew what was coming.

    • You know, the summary had me confused.

      Since King’s speech was popular it should not have IP protection. Ergo other popular things, like Star Wars and the NFL games should not have IP protection.

      I think we can – are should - argue what level (if any) if historical events should have IP. I think we should be arguing the length of IP restrictions. (50 years seems enough.). But I don’t think we should be arguing that popular things should have a lower level.

      • I disagree. Once a work has reached a certain cultural ubiquity, there is no point in continued copyright protection. The song 'Happy Birthday' is my go-to example. The song has such an incredibly high cultural penetration that society is harmed more then it is helped by perpetuating its protection.
  • ... for stuff we can make money on, then expect to see jackbooted thugs raiding your offices if you continue to use our grandfather's public speech in public discourse without paying us.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      ... for stuff we can make money on, then expect to see jackbooted thugs raiding your offices if you continue to use our grandfather's public speech in public discourse without paying us.

      Interesting collateral damage is that the very people who should hear the speech will not be able to afford to do so.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      You're confused. Perhaps you should find out what you're talking about?
  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @02:53PM (#44759239)

    ...that my children will undo everything positive about my life.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      ...that my children will undo everything positive about my life.

      Pass them my card, ackthpt of Dewey, Skrewum & Howe LLP

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      do his children get off on beating the shit out of women like daddy did?

  • by jmcvetta (153563) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @02:56PM (#44759269)

    These useless parasites - King's sons - are stealing our culture. They are a disgrace to Dr King's memory.

    • I agree. Enough is enough. All of King's speeches, images, and works should be taken from this greedy family and placed in the public domain. They belong to everyone and not just whoever can pay for them.

  • I wonder if the release of Dr. King's works to the world and substantial realization of social justice in America will coincide. Maybe the continued familial infighting will prolong both of those events.

  • One, Dr King is most probably spinning in his grave. I can't imagine a world where Dr. King wanted access limited to his "I have a dream" speech.

    Two, if the family wants his name back, they can have it. "Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard" doesn't fit on the stationary anyway.

  • Do you think that King would want his speech (of historical importance) locked up behind copyright? Is this how they choose to honor their father's memory?
    Just disgusting.
    • by Tailhook (98486)

      Do you think that King would want his speech (of historical importance) locked up behind copyright?

      King sued [leagle.com] for copyright infringement of the speech in 1963. That's what got the whole copyright ball rolling.

      So yeah, this is exactly what he wanted.

      • That was against a record company trying to sell it for profit, almost the opposite of the current situation.

  • Does IP law really mean that if I invent something my greedy bastard children get to lay claim on it for decades???

    Can you will it to a charity?

    This just sounds like the family cash cow as everybody tries to make bank on what daddy did.

  • This kind of thing is a great example of why long posthumous copyrights need to be abolished. Along with a certan quantity of other copyright schemes. This in no way encourages the creation of new works, nor innovation except in the field of fivolous lawsuits.

    • Careful - expiring copyright upon death might yield an incentive to kill the author so their works can be profited from. Stranger things happen every day, and there's probably a good reason to keep some measure of timeframe for expiration after death, even if the current 70-100 years is too long.
  • If they don't want his historic speech to be heard by people, then I propose we just forget about him and pretend he never existed. Their precious IP will be worthless if nobody even know who MLK is anymore.
  • Copywritten? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrismcb (983081) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:13PM (#44759431) Homepage
    I wondered how this speech could even be copyrighted, as apparently it wasn't registered. Mr wiki says there was a lawsuit a few years ago to determine whether the speech was copyrighted or not. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_a_Dream [wikipedia.org]
    What I don't get is, Mr wiki also claims the speech is under copyright for 120 years, but shouldn't it have been death + 50 years?
    The worst part about it, is I find it difficult to believe that someone who made a speech like that would not want it in the public domain. Not having it in the public domain sort of defeats the purpose of the speech.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilRhino (638506)
      If we put the speech in the public domain, what incentive would MLK, Jr. have to make more speeches. This is about protecting the artists people!
    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Mr wiki might be wrong on this one - It should have been death +50 (+20 bonus years after 1998). The 120 years is suppose to be time after creation for corporate owned IP. Since it was essentially published (not just created), it would only be 95 years, but since Dr. King wasn't a corporation, I'd guess it'd only be 70 years after his death. Not sure now that his Estate owns it if that turns it into a corporation copyright, but either way, the 120 years seems wrong.
  • one is left to wonder about the implications intellectual property claims have for free speech when they can be applied to so public a figure as Dr. King.

    One is left to wonder etc. when they can be applied beyond the lifetime of the creator of the IP, famous or not

  • by triffid_98 (899609) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:26PM (#44759597)
    I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day my children will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these images and speeches to be copyrighted, and that it should be self-evident: that all of my children are entitled to residual revenue in perpetuity, as authorized under section 6 of the copyright act of 1976"
  • As is the case with increasing frequency, one is left to wonder about the implications intellectual property claims have for free speech when they can be applied to so public a figure as Dr. King.

    Sorry, Subby, but no, "free speech" doesn't mean you can freely appropriate someone's work just because they're a "public figure". See, the "free" part is about their freedom from persecution, not your cost of royalties when you put their speech on t-shirts.

  • I might actually give a shit about his kids if it wasn't for the fact that they're just wrangling amongst themselves over money.

    This is why IP/Copyright/etc/etc should be life of the creator +20 years or a flat 20 years in the case of assets held by a corporation.

    It has now been over FIFTY YEARS since the man gave his famous speech. And he's been dead for 45 of them. I'd think that his children have reaped a decent return off something they didn't do for themselves.

  • Replace Martin Luther King Day with "Civil Rights Day". Then let the lawyers figure it out for the family....
  • by Guru80 (1579277) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @05:32PM (#44760921)
    I didn't know his dream was for his sons to make a fortune off his activism...silly me.

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