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.

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Comments on “MLK Jr. Estate Threatening To Sue Vendors For Selling Products With Obama And King”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

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.

Comboman says:

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.

Valkor says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: MLK's Real Dream

MLK’s dream is a little more complicated than that. MLK like all blacks have a dream of living in white neighborhoods and not having to be around blacks. It is a desire for a continual upgrade so that they get all the benefits of white society while degrading that society for whites. So saying MLK just wanted a lack of racism is not accurate.

kiba (user link) says:

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.

William C Bonner (profile) says:

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

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.

kevjohn (user link) says:

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.

Liberty says:

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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