'I Have a Dream' © All Rights Reserved

Martin Luther King's family keeps tight control of historic speech: Lauren Williams

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 23, 2013 1:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – With the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's iconic speech on the National Mall coming up, Lauren Williams at Mother Jones has a dream of her own. "I have a dream," she writes, that black and white children will be able "to sit down together at the table of brotherhood this week, open their MacBooks and pull up the seminal speech on the Internet." But they can't, at least not legally. The speech is under copyright until 2038, and King's heirs guard it jealously. (Want to see it? You can buy a DVD of the speech for $20.)

The estate sued CBS and USA Today, for instance, for using the speech without permission in the 1990s, and the family has fought to keep it off video sharing websites. Yet they've licensed the rights to several TV commercials—including one that also featured Homer Simpson. Part of the problem: EMI Publishing, which works with the King family business to license King's image and works, has "a raison d'etre, which is to exploit copyrighted works," says one professor specializing in public domain issues. "Most people have a strong intuitive sense that … any kid, any educator, anybody should be able to just Google it." Click for Williams' full column.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Aug. 28, 1963.   (AP Photo/File)
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