MLK Had a Dream, and it’s Copyrighted, Part Two

Terry Hart of Copyhype has an interesting post offering another take on the subject of Martin Luther King Jr. and the copyright protection of his words, speeches, and writings (see yesterday’s post on this topic here).  While much media attention has been paid to the posthumous copyright enforcement efforts of King’s estate, the article asserts that King himself “attached importance to his literary property by actively administering and enforcing his copyrights during his life,” and “was not shy in asserting his rights when they had been infringed.”  Hart argues that “the ability of someone to benefit from their [sic] labor, as King did through copyright, is consistent with [King’s] views on economic justice and individual dignity,” and further argues that “[p]ublication of King’s work is what helped disseminate his ideas and benefit the public, but the ability to control and benefit from that publication is what allowed him to continue his work until he was brutally killed in April 1968.”  The post concludes with the following point:

On this day, we honor and celebrate the tremendous legacy that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left.  King’s legacy hopefully inspires us all.  But his work is not like “a national park” in the sense that it was bought and maintained by the public; indeed, it came about through great personal sacrifice, and King paid the ultimate price for his work when he was assassinated.  It seems a bit presumptuous to say the public has a greater claim to this work than King’s own family, and it seems odd to say that the more lasting and important one’s work is, the less legal protection it should receive.  More importantly, it seems better to focus on the content of the message King left us rather than the cost of his DVD.

Read the full article here, and yesterday’s post on this topic here.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Reposted from Copyhype.