MLK Jr. Estate Threatening To Sue Vendors For Selling Products With Obama And King

from the get-over-it dept

The family of Martin Luther King Jr. has unfortunately done plenty to tarnish the great man's legacy over the last few decades, specifically in being overly aggressive claiming "ownership" of anything having to do with King, and demanding money from various entities that show King's speeches. A decade ago they were involved in a big legal fight with CBS for showing King's I Have A Dream speech. Who knew that dream was locked up thanks to intellectual property laws?

Now the family is apparently threatening to sue anyone selling any kind of merchandise that includes images of King and President-Elect Obama, claiming that if others are making money off of King's image, King's family should get a cut: "We do feel that if somebody's out there making a dollar, we should make a dime." So, now, apparently that dream is to keep making money off a speech that was delivered decades ago.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 9:48am

    My mother took a photo of Dr. King in the mid-sixties. Are they claiming my mother has no right to publish that photograph? You have the right to photo public figures in public spaces and sell/copy/publish those photos to I don't see how they can claim ownership of every image ever taken.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Same as always, legitimate stores selling King merchandise will have to stop, whereas every corner can have an individual selling t-shirts with Obama and King, and they will be many and difficult to track. And btw, can you copyright speeches in the US????? That's just weird. I mean, the whole point of a speech is for it to be in the public domain, transmitting its message.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 10:18am

    Well, if that group is entitled to make money off of King's image, I have a hard time seeing how the family should not make money off of the use of King's image.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 10:22am

    Re:

    No one's saying the family can't make money off King's image. But why should the family make money off of me just because I'm making money off his image? If they want a cut of T-shirt sales, they should start selling t-shirts.

     

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  5.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 18th, 2008 @ 10:25am

    Poor MLK

    I am pretty sure that this is probably the farthest thing from what MLK would have wanted. He is probably rolling over in his grave because of these people. They should be ashamed.


    And to poster #3, they are not entitled to make any money at all off of King's image. They are however attemping to make some. And his estate does not own every picture taken of him. As poster #1 was making the point, other people have taken pictures of him in public places. They have Zero rights to those pictures.

     

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  6.  
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    Confused, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 10:29am

    Since when...

    Since when can you copyright your likeness? If that were the case... wouldn't every sleezy tabloid be out of business?

     

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  7.  
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    Peavey, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 10:32am

    Civil Rights

    MLK's legacy isn't about civil rights, its about royalties and residuals folks!

    While MLK had a dream of a society free of racism, his children have a dream of a phat stacks of cash!

     

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  8.  
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    Potato Head, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:12am

    Sad

    MLK Jr. is probably rolling over in his grave. What should be celebration is now litigation.

    A dream realized is now tainted by greed. His children should be ashamed of them selves.

    People are shallow and ridiculous.

    Go Obama!

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    You have a good point about speeches...any public speech should automatically become public domain.

     

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  10.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:19am

    What would Dr. King do?

    This would be an excellent time to reread the "Letter From the Birmingham Jail", which has some useful things to say about just and unjust laws.

     

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  11.  
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    Comboman, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:31am

    Re: Since when...

    Since when can you copyright your likeness? If that were the case... wouldn't every sleezy tabloid be out of business?

    It's not copyright, it's called Right of Publicity. Sleezy tabloids can print pictures of Lindsey Lohan taken in a public place, if they have the permission of the photographer (who owns the copyright on the photograph). But they can't print an advertisement for vodka featuring that same photograph without Lohan's consent. T-shirts and other merchandise would fall under the same rules.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: Since when...

    No not someone who knows what they are talking about.

     

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  13.  
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    Valkor, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    Re: Re: Since when...

    You need to let the King family's lawyer know. He sounds a little confused. From TFA:
    Joseph M. Beck, a lawyer who represents the King estate, said courts have repeatedly defended the right of public figures to control the commercial use of their copyrighted words and image.

    As far as I am concerned, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should feel free to control the appearance of his image on unsanctioned T-shirts. What's that you say? He's dead? Well, let's add posthumous "Right of Publicity" to our list of bullshit laws.

     

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  14.  
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    Norm, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    For crap's sake

    And WHY is it okay for someone to A.) make money from MLK's image without giving some to the family? B.) Cheapen the memory/legacy of MLK by commercializing his image in whatever way?

     

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  15.  
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    Norm, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Since when...

    So Valkor, let's say your father were famous (or even if he's not) you wouldn't mind if I printed up his image on a t-shirt hocking my religion or my cigarettes or my political views?

     

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  16.  
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    kiba, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    Re: For crap's sake

    Because MLK's family are not in anyway involved in the enterprising operation to sell MLK t-shirt/put your products here. It is also an insult to the entrepreneurs who risk their money to bring these products to the marketplace.

    I seriously doubt that the image of MLK will be "cheapened" by commercialization. Perhaps for you, maybe. But for me, nothing will diminish his accomplishment and legacy.

     

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  17.  
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    anit-anonymous coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    Re: What would Dr. King do?

    Thanks for filling us up on your plans.

    Well have fun and enjoy rereading it.

     

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  18.  
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    William C Bonner, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 12:54pm

    King County, in Washington got renamed for MLK Jr 20 years ago.

    http://www.metrokc.gov/exec/news/2005/04/19mlkjrCounty.htm

    I dislike renaming existing places in general. I thought it was interesting in relation to your post though. They completed the change just a few years ago with a likeness as the city logo. It's funny, considering how generally white the northwest is compared to the rest of the country.

     

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  19.  
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    Tiff, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    Re:

    "Are they claiming my mother has no right to publish that photograph?
    Yes, they are.

     

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  20.  
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    kevjohn, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 2:07pm

    Same old story

    On the one hand I am in favor of trying to preserve MLK's image and legacy. On the other hand I'm getting really tired of seeing and reading about the family of a dead person essentially squabbling over the family fortunes. It's usually people who don't have 1/10th the intelligence, charisma, hard workingness, or anything positive that the deceased had, fighting over who gets the bigger slice of the pie to maintain their lavish lifestyle that they've done little to earn. Not saying the Kings fall into this category; in fact most of them have substantial accomplishments of their own -- built upon their parents' good names and efforts though.

     

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  21.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 4:28pm

    So Much For The Content Of Their Character...

    Copyright-protected at last! Copyright-protected at last! Thank God almighty, copyright-protected at last!

     

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  22.  
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    Jimbob Rutherford, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 6:06pm

    I don't see why them King's think they own Rodney's Can't We All Just Get Along speech. That is supposebly public domain.

     

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  23.  
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    Vincent Clement, Nov 19th, 2008 @ 8:29am

    Re: For crap's sake

    The family had nothing to do with creating MLK's image. MLK did that.

    As to cheapening the image. Hardly. If anything, it puts MLK back at the forefront of American culture. People will realize that the USA has come a long way.

     

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  24.  
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    Celeste, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 9:02am

    Re: Civil Rights

    You are absolutely right. What a shame.

     

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  25.  
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    Liberty, Dec 20th, 2009 @ 7:27pm

    MLKing's family cut

    The family has gone through a lot of grief over their patriarch's death. Have some respect for the trauma the family has gone through losing their father, mentor and leader, not to mention the income the man brought to the family. Yes, the family should get a cut when his image is sold by others who are making money on it. That's not too much to ask.

     

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