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Why You Won't See Martin Luther King Jr's 'I Have a Dream' Speech on YouTube

Illustration for article titled Why You Wont See Martin Luther King Jrs I Have a Dream Speech on YouTube

You'd expect a speech as famous and powerful as MLK Jr's 'I Have a Dream' to be a part of the public domain already. Nope. Instead, the rights of the speech are held by MLK's family.

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Usually, whenever a speech is broadcast to a large audience, it'd be up on YouTube within seconds. What isn't on YouTube these days? Free country! Free speech! Or something like that.

But in 1999, a court ruled that the speech was "a performance distributed to the news media and not the public, making it a "limited" as opposed to a "general" publication." And because "performances" were not part of the public domain, MLK and his family had the rights to claim copyright. That's why it's hard to find full audio or video of the magnificent speech on YouTube. Or any other video sharing service for that matter. Of course, people can still use excerpts of the speech under "fair use" but nobody really knows the limits of that fair use until they get a letter in the mail asking for a licensing fee. (USA Today was ordered to pay a $1,700 licensing fee).

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MLK's family control the rights to "I Have a Dream" until 2038. You can read the entire "copyright nightmare" of 'I Have a Dream' at Motherboard. [Motherboard.tv]


You can keep up with Casey Chan, the author of this post, on Twitter or Facebook.

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DISCUSSION

Can someone with a little bit more C expertise explain something to me?

What's the stop some kid from reading a script of his speech, recording it and posting it on youtube? The performance itself may be a limited publication, but the actual words are not, are they?