Nation & World News

Why It’s Difficult To Find Full Video Of King’s Historic Speech

By Eyder Peralta on August 24th, 2013

As thousands gather in Washington over the next week to the mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, you may be moved to look for video of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” which he delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial during that march.

It might surprise you that it is actually quite hard to find — because while many copies have been uploaded to Internet video sites, many have also been taken down.

Why, you ask? It’s all about copyright.

Dustin Volz takes on the story in the latest issue of The National Journal. He explains:

“Months after the August 1963 March on Washington, King himself sued to prevent the unauthorized sale of his speech, purportedly in an effort to control proceeds and use them to support the civil-rights movement. In 1999, the King family sued CBS after the network produced a video documentary that ‘used, without authorization, portions of … King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.’ A divided Appellate Court, in reversing a lower court ruling, held that the speech was not a “general publication,” despite its huge audience and subsequent historic importance. The speech instead qualified as a “limited publication,” the court said, because “distribution to the news media, as opposed to the general public, for the purpose of enabling the reporting of a contemporary newsworthy event, is only a limited publication.

“The ruling was narrow, and CBS and the King estate settled the case before the lower court could reconsider, leaving the copyright of the speech in a somewhat confusing legal situation. A CBS press release dated July 12, 2000, discusses the agreement that allowed the network to ‘retain the right to use its footage of the speeches’ from the march and license it to others in exchange for an undisclosed contribution to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

“In 2009, EMI Publishing cut a deal with the King estate to help ensure that the speech was ‘accorded the same protection and same right for compensation as other copyrights.’ EMI was sold in 2011 to a consortium headed by Sony. The King Center did not respond to requests for comment.”

The bottom line is that online presence of the speech is likely to be problematic until 2038, when King’s copyright expires. U.S. law states that an author keeps a copyright for life plus 70 years.

All of that said, an activist organization called Fight for the Future has taken it upon itself to provide ready access to the speech. On Internet Freedom Day, the organization uploaded video of the entire 17-minute speech, which, at the moment, is still available on YouTube.

Volz, by the way, will be on tonight’s edition of All Things Considered to talk about his reporting. Click here for a NPR member station near you. We’ll post audio of the interview a little later today.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is seen inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Star City, Russia. Kelly, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, are scheduled for launch Friday aboard a Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA To Study A Twin In Space And His Brother On Earth

During astronaut Scott Kelly’s year in space, scientists will compare his physiology with that of his twin brother, Mark, to study the effect of prolonged space flight on the human body.


Workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory used organic cat litter to clean up nuclear waste. The litter triggered chemical reactions that later caused a drum to burst.

Official Report: Nuclear Waste Accident Caused By Wrong Cat Litter

An official investigation into an accident last February at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has concluded that cat litter is the culprit. Organic material in the litter caused a drum to burst.


Census Data Prove It: We Prefer Sunshine And Golf Carts

A new Census Bureau report suggests many Americans would rather be driving a golf cart than shoveling a drive. Last year, Florida was home to six of the 20 fastest-growing metro areas in the nation.


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, on Thursday, where he signed into law a bill that would allow business owners with strong religious convictions to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples.

Indiana’s Governor Signs ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

Among other things, the controversial new law would allow owners of businesses in the state to deny services to same-sex couples.


Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby waits at the entrance to Leicester cathedral where the reinterment ceremony of Richard III was held Thursday.

Richard III, Whose Remains Were Found Under A Parking Lot, Reburied

The last English king to die in battle was finally given a burial fit for a king — some 530 years after he was killed.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments