Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Dream" Speech Protected Under Copyright Until 2038
Delivered at the March on Washington 50 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for racial and economic equality is one of the most important speeches in American history.
However, a little-known fact is the “I Have a Dream” speech itself is under strict copyright laws, which renders sharing it a difficult task. CBS learned this the hard way in 1996 when the King Family sued the news company for using unauthorized footage of the speech in a video documentary titled ‘’The 20th Century With Mike Wallace.’’
As The National Journal reports, Dr. King submitted his famous remarks to the U.S. Copyright Office in 1963, protecting the speech as an unpublished work until 2038, when the copyright is up. As a result, the work can only be reproduced as a limited publication by authorized media.
The only person who legally owns the speech, at least physically, is George Raveling, former USC basketball coach and Nike’s Director of International Basketball. In an interview with CBS, Raveling, who was a volunteer at the March on Washington, said he obtained the original copy of the speech after asking Dr. King for it shortly after he concluded its delivery.
“I said, ‘Dr. King can I have that copy of the speech?’” said Raveling. “He turned and handed it to me, and just as he did, a rabbi came up to congratulate him and it was over that quick.” Raveling has been offered up to $3.5 million for the speech, according to USA Today.
Watch Dr. King and NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins on Meet the Press in 1963, three days before the March on Washington, below.
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