MLK Jr.'s Sons Celebrate 50th Anniversary Of 'I Have A Dream' By Suing His Daughter

from the making-dad-proud-the-only-way-they-know-how dept

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, a dream that one day his sons would sue his daughter over the control of his body of work -- and on the fiftieth anniversary of his famous speech. As he boldly stated 50 years ago, the only way to ensure racial harmony is through familial infighting.

If Dr. King were alive today, along with having to offer his opinion on Miley Cyrus, he'd be shocked to hear his famous speech paraphrased this way -- and his legacy being handled in this fashion. He would also likely be astonished that each anniversary of his speech is marked by vanishing Youtube videos and the arrival of DMCA notices and cease and desist orders.

But that's what we have, thanks to his legacy being "safeguarded" by siblings who sue each other.

In a lawsuit filed Aug. 28 in Fulton County Court, the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc. -- run by King's sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter King -- claims it licensed the civil rights activist's intellectual property rights to The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in March 2009.

The King Center's CEO is Bernice King, the youngest child of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968.

Dr. King's estate claims it supports the center's mission to maintain King's legacy and has been the nonprofit's single largest individual donor for the past decade.
"Supports it," but only up to a point, apparently. Not that Bernice King is exactly blameless.
[I]t says the center has been careless with Dr. King's intellectual property, which includes the leader's "name, image, recorded voice and memorabilia," along with "all works of authorship ... including writings, speeches, sermons, letters and copyrights," trademark interests, and "the remains and coffin contained within the crypt of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

The estate says it conducted an audit in April, which "revealed that the current manner of care and storage of the physical property by defendant is unacceptable." It claims the items are "susceptible to damage by fire, water, mold, and mildew, as well as theft."

King's sons say they tried to work with their sister to fix the problems, but the relationship "has recently become strained, resulting in a total breakdown in communication and transparency."
So, on one hand, we have King's estate, which has never missed an opportunity to capitalize on the "I have a dream" speech and, on the other, someone who clearly doesn't value what they have. If nothing else, Bernice King should put her soon-to-be-gone collection the hands of people (other than her siblings) who know the value of returning certain "property" to the public. (Perhaps someone like this history professor:)

And King's estate holders need to return a speech given publicly back to public and stop turning this momentuous event into nothing more than a series of transactions. His sons have to have some idea of how the public views their mercenary exploits. They can't be that obtuse, can they? Or do they think their father would be proud to know his voice and likeness is more likely to be used to emancipate people from lousy wireless service than to be spread throughout the internet in order to inspire new generations of Americans?



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:39am

    A little off-topic, but I've been thinking lately I wish I could publicly say this to President Obama at some town hall:

    If Martin Luther King were alive today, you'd be spying on him just like J. Edgar Hoover did.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Common Sense Realist - NOT racist, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:50am

    Instead of creating their own legacy and creating something on their own - these people are riding MLKs coat tails. Good for nothing lazy kids. And we see this same attitude all over the black community today.

     

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  3.  
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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:52am

    It's finally happened. The Dream is Dead! Dead! Dead!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    JBDragon, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:03am

    Re:

    The problem is how can you Copyright all this stuff and for so long??? The Guy is dead and has been dead. It's should all be free and open by now anyway. That's one of the issues I have with copyright as it is. It goes on FOREVER when it was never meant to!!!

    Look as something as OLD as Mickey Mouse and it's still Copyrighted and it should have expired long ago, and yet somehow it's been extended a few times. Once again never ending!!! Nothing these days seem to expire. It goes on and on and on and on instead of into the Public Domain.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:05am

    I must have missed the part in MLK's will where it said for his kids to lock up his speech and fight over it for 50 years.


    In fact I wonder if he actually willed ownership of his speech to his kids anyway. If he didn't, wouldn't that mean he didn't see it as property?

    Either way, maybe I should include in my will a line that says that my kids can't be fighting over my possessions for 50 years or they lose it all...

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Re:

    You almost had it up until the last sentence. We also see plenty of similar behaviour in the white community. There's nothing wrong with criticising these people, but singling out a race while doing so indicates that King's dream is not yet realised.

    Next time, just point out how they're "good for nothing lazy kids", and it will be valid no matter the race of the subject. The disclaimer doesn't negate the fact that you singled out a race for criticism. Just stick to singling out greedy people who'd rather ride their dead ancestors' coattails than work for a living, and we'll all agree.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:13am

    Video Copyrights

    Doesn't the video of Dr. Kings speech belong to the cameras operator, or the company he or she worked for? How can the King 'family' claim copyright over that? Did they buy the rights from the TV station or home movie buff?

     

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  8.  
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    theOtherDude, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:17am

    You dont get it

    MLK made it to the mountain top. He left enough wealth for his children to fight over, this is the american dream guys.

     

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  9.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:20am

    Don't forget Bob Jones

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:21am

    Guess you saw the words "copyright" and "trademark"...

    Then tried to do a Techdirt Twerk to tear those down. If so, you failed to bring it to a point.

    The King estate is a long-running saga of greed similar to no others. It's an anomaly.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Buzz L, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:28am

    Anomalies

    Anomalies Everywhere

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    gorehound (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Making money off their Dad one way or the other.Just another tale of greed here, moving on to another story.

     

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  13.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    Re:

    *ouch*
    i *wish* that would leave a mark, but i'm thinking saint obama is just as sociopathic as the rest of them...

    only, obama/et al are WORSE than j edna hoover: he only targeted a relative few high-profile loudmouths and dissenters; while choco jesu is 'targeting' EVERYONE...

    where are today's welch that says, 'at long last, have you no shame...'
    unfortunately, i know the answer to that one: no, they don't have any shame...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 12:32pm

    Life of the author + 70 years wasn't enacted until well after this speech. Can someone explain how any of this is still under copyright?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Guess you saw the words "copyright" and "trademark"...

    What is your definition of an anomaly? It is clearly not the definition used by the rest of the known universe, so I'd like to know.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Like Everything Else in IP

    It's "owned" until some one with deep enough pockets and enough potential to gain comes along and fights it out in court.

     

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  17.  
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    DOlz (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 1:19pm

    Re:

    "And we see this same attitude all over the black community today."

    He's right you know. Just look at some of those other lazy blacks riding on their dead parent's coattails. Like J.R.R. Tolkien's son, The Walton heirs, generations of Rockefellers, F. Scott Fitzgerald's descendants, and the list goes on and on.

    Just so you know I was being sarcastic. Normally I wouldn't bother to point that out, but since you don't seem to get irony ("NOT racist" followed by ending your post with a racist comment) I wanted to be clear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    DOlz (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re:

    Only two things will survive a nuclear war cockroaches and copyright. Which is only right and fair that the cockroaches will have to life with something disgusting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 1:32pm

    Re:

    Life of the author + 70 years wasn't enacted until well after this speech. Can someone explain how any of this is still under copyright?

    Retroactive extensions are a horrible thing, but that's what a little lobbying from Disney gets you...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Trails (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 1:52pm

    Absolutely racist

    And we see this same attitude all over the black community today.


    Are you really so dumb as to suggest this isn't racist?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 2:07pm

    Re: You dont get it

    Sadly, in some peoples' opinions you're right. I wonder how many generations it takes for that dream to become the very thing its originators were fighting against (useless spoiled dynasties living off a majority share of wealth and power they didn't earn at the expense of the rest of humanity).

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    anonymouse, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 2:28pm

    Seriously

    He made a public speech, nobody paid to hear it and nobody was asked to sign an agreement never to record it or play it back or give it to others to listen to, in fact it was a speech i am sure he would have liked many more people to hear.
    Or am i wrong and did he only make the speech so eh could make money.

     

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  23.  
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    mattarse (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Seriously

    I actually thought until recently that public speeches were...public and not under copyright. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this, but it's akin to wrapping it around a telephone pole.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    The Libertarian, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 2:52pm

    This really sucks. . .

    If they want to fight over this speech, why don't they get on American Gladiators or something of that sort and get it out of their system? Honestly. Owning an idea that was expressed through speech and never meant to be recorded and held is like stealing.

     

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  25.  
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    velox (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 5:15pm

    Copyright as an incentive to be nonproductive

    This is a very public example of why copyrights that extend beyond length of the creator's career are worse than useless. The copyright is now counterproductive. The King descendants can rely on an income from their father's work, therefore they have lack the necessity to work and be productive themselves.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    V, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 8:26pm

    Re: Re:

    Actually, works published and copyrighted 1923-1977 retain copyright for 95 years, assuming all renewal requirements were met. Works first created on or after January 1, 1978 enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author if the author is a natural person. Works first created on or after January 1, 1978 enter the public domain 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation whichever occurs first for a corporate author (i.e., "works for higher").

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    V, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 8:27pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    that last word should be "hire" not "higher". *ugh*

     

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  28.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 4th, 2013 @ 2:53am

    Re: Guess you saw the words "copyright" and "trademark"...

    The King estate is a long-running saga of greed similar to no others. It's an anomaly.

    The King estate is a long-running saga of greed similar to many others. It's the norm.

    FTFY

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2013 @ 2:37pm

    I HAVE A MEAL TICKET!!! not copyright free at last not copyright free at last. copyrighted segregation forever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    P, Sep 4th, 2013 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Video Copyrights

    Then if i want to sell copies of the latest dvds i just need to record them and the recordings of the copywrite material becomes my copywrited work....?

    not that i dont agree copywrite has gotten out of control. Trademarks are even worse thou

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Tom, Sep 4th, 2013 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Anomalies

    how is it an anomalie.. all people regardless of color are greedy bastards when it comes to fighting over a dead persons property.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Worstpart, Sep 4th, 2013 @ 4:30pm

    Re:

    Worst part is if he was still a live today he probally wouldn't be worth a dime............ so they are kinda glad their dad died... how sad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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