How IP Laws Have Locked Up Martin Luther King's Brilliance

from the sadness dept

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day — and there are many reasons to celebrate his legacy. But one thing that should not be celebrated is what his heirs have done with his words ever since. In the past, we’ve discussed how his heirs have done everything they can to try to use intellectual property laws to lock up MLK Jr.’s legacy — and set up a toll booth to charge anyone for making use of them in any way, shape or form. The most recent episode of On The Media explored this… and also talked about how most of King’s speeches were actually built off the works of others, but then (obviously) turned into something much more powerful through his detailed study and understanding of how to preach. It’s a fascinating story… made ridiculously annoying by his heirs’ desire to lock up and charge for King’s legacy.

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Comments on “How IP Laws Have Locked Up Martin Luther King's Brilliance”

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jakerome (profile) says:


No matter what they say, no matter what they claim, it’s clear that Dr. King’s heirs are more concerned with profiting from his vision that expanding the reach of his vision. That Eyes on the Prize has been virtually sent down the memory is but the most egregious example. More pernicious are the thousands of documentaries that can’t be made due to the Chilling Effects of harmful copyright laws that threaten bankruptcy on any organ that funds or creates non fiction accounts of our country’s history.

Even though the use of these clips is almost certainly Fair Use under any rational adjudication, threats of fines in the tens of millions have forced producers to grovel at the feet of lazy heirs that seek only to extract monopoly rents for history that belongs to all of us, equally.

That Dr. King’s heirs claim to protect his legacy while selling clips of his famous speech for wireless ads while documentaries and news programs that seek to educate the nation’s citizens are forced to do without is beyond shameful. That his greedy heirs seek to monetize the holiday created for one of our nation’s true giants harms not only the memory of a great man but also impugns the holiday in his honor. Instead of all being able to celebrate his legacy as Dr. King would have no doubt wanted, the misguided heirs have set up toll booths and diminished Dr. King’s legacy as his words no longer ring out from mountaintops.

Free at last. Free at last. When the public domain returns, Dr. King will be free at last.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Travesty

Well at least in greedy everybody is equal on this world, it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, religion or sexual orientation greed is something that transcends all barriers.

This should be a warning to future leaders that care about humanity to not make a will transferring everything they did to the public domain after their death or have others twist their legacy into something else entirely.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Oh come on now! Don’t you see how this copyright is inspiring people to put out new works!

Oh wait, the guy who was producing those works has been dead for years.

So ummm, why does copyright last so long again? I sure don’t see it motivating the “owners” to make anything new and the original content creator is not going to make anything new.

Elder-Geek (profile) says:


I don’t have a reference. But one of MLK heirs was talking yesterday about how it is wrong that business have sales on MLK day and should be required to pay 10% of their sales on that day to their foundation.

It is sad to see 2 generations of that family feel that they have the right to freeload off of one speech. That they should never have to work a job, be competent or do anything to contribute to society because they had a relative give an awesome speech over 40 years ago.

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