Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr. and the "I have a dream speech"

Today, CNN aired the entire 17 minute "I have a dream speech" as it was given by Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in August 1963. This was a big deal because the speech was copyrighted and is rarely broadcast in its entirety. After the broadcast, one of the men who had input into the speech's content was interviewed. He -- whose name I cannot now find -- was an associate of Dr. King and a civil rights attorney. It is he who had a copyright symbol placed on the copies of the speech that were distributed to the press in 1963 and he who launched the first defense (in 1963) of the speech's copyright. He knows that there has been controversy about the speech not being in the public domain.

Of course, he and the King family cannot stop the speech from being heard and seen. A video of the speech -- in its entirety -- is on YouTube. Since the video is linked from the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, we might assume that the video is legal. However, given that the copyright has been strictly enforced and that CNN likely paid in order to air the speech today, I would also tend to argue that the video on YouTube infringes on copyright. Unfortunately, I don't know which is right! Nor -- for the moment -- do I care. This is a speech that should be heard in its entirety because it contains more than just the famous section on King's dream. It was noted today that Barack Obama referenced specific sections of the "dream" speech in some of his own speeches, yet you would not know that if you hadn't heard the whole thing.

As I reflect on the speech and today, I remember that 1963 was an important year in civil rights in the U.S. and the beginning of unrest in our culture. In November 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In 1965, Malcolm X was killed. In 1968, both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were killed. I remember the race riots of that era. Out of that turmoil, progress was made. It was slow coming, but it did come. Has King's dream been realized? Yes and no. But we must all admit that the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama demonstrations that we have come a long way since 1963!

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Alain Pierrot said...

Interesting case of IP: French law has an explicit exception to copyright for public political speeches, which can be freely reproduced, in their entirety, "for information sake".

Gnawledge said...

The unnamed speech-writer you mentioned was Clarence Jones. I also wrote about interview and posted a video of it -->

thanks for your blog -- it's great reading