“A Monument for Civil Rights and Intellectual Property Right

Length: 4 Pages 876 Words

The speech that has become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement and an embedded, interwoven piece of American history has also developed into a heated, standard-setting debate of intellectual property ownership. The Copyright Acts of 1909 and 1976 protect works from the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form, leaving registration voluntary, but necessary if suit is to be brought for infringement. However, the 1909 version composed an important and determining difference, resulting in the legal fate of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, which highlighted the March on Washington. According to the Eleventh Circuit Opinion that heard Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. versus CBS, Inc., an appealed case, the legal technicality was “whether Dr. King’s attempt to obtain statutory copyright protection on September 30, 1963 [almost one month after the March on Washington] was effective, or whether it was a nullity because the speech had already been forfeited to the public domain via a general population.” (case? 2). Public performance of a work does not constitute general publication, and even though media access and service may have granted limited publication, the possession, control, benefits and r Continue...


Technology has greatly improved the accessibility and diverseness of people attained, but the lack of respective rules have jeopardized the security of intellectual property. A legal observation in Rankin's article further supports this argument, King "...successfully sued a company in 1964 that sought to sell tapes of the speech in its entirety King versus Mister Maestro, Inc. For example, a current generation who benefits from the grueling work of a grandfather, commonly in the form of currency or physical property, did not create the estate but has right to it as family. This permission was momentary, to broadcast the event, and did not justify the right to later use of copies. An argument presented by CBS in the case also referenced by Goodman claimed "...Dr. The issue is much like a rapper who free verses lyrics on the spot or performs premeditated, unique prose in the presence of a public audience; in either instance the creator is equally protected under a common-law copyright. esponsibilities were entirely and rightly King's and is currently of the Estate's. For the sake of debate if the newsletter was fully authorized, the most famous portions were not printed and would be protected under a common-law copyright. Bill Rankin's article printed in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution quotes Joseph Beck, an attorney for the King's Estate, "When someone makes a speech in public, one doesn't have to stand up and say, 'All rights reserved' (573). King gave the press advance copies of the speech; on the other hand, the most eloquent passages were extemporaneous (574-575). The family's conservativeness of integrity has been maintained and not been reduced to the market-gain's trivialization, with example to refrigerator magnets. Granted with the rights of the speech, comes the commercial benefit, although it is comforting to know the family has through time demonstrated financial gain is not the motive of the fight.