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Old 04-07-2011, 09:05 AM   #1
AlexBell
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Martin Luther King Jr. and copyright

I have it in mind to make ePubs of some of Dr. Martin Luther King's speeches - especially 'Beyond Vietnam'.

But after searching the internet I'm puzzled as to whether they are covered by copyright, and if so to whom I should apply for permission. 'Letter from Birmingham Jail' is presumably in the Public Domain, since it is in the MobileRead library. But what about 'Beyond Vietnam' and 'I have a dream'? I have the texts; I just don't know whether I can use them.

Can anyone tell me how to find out?

Regards, Alex

PS The ebook or ebooks would be for the MobileRead library, not for profit.
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Old 04-07-2011, 10:27 AM   #2
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There is a King Center, in Atlanta Georgia, run by his son Dexter which apparently monitors such things. On one site, down at the bottom I found this line:
Quote:
License granted by Intellectual Properties Management, Atlanta, GA as exclusive Licensor of the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the other hand, copies of the speeches seem to be widely available, so I'm not sure how vigourously they track usage.
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Old 04-07-2011, 05:24 PM   #3
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[This was ill-informed]

Schools and newspapers (I happen to work for one) frequently reprint / make accessible the text of public speeches for the sake of readers.

And I think that's what you're doing for us Mobile Read folks, right?

Last edited by WilliamVitka; 04-07-2011 at 07:05 PM. Reason: Stupidity
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Old 04-07-2011, 06:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WilliamVitka View Post
It's not for profit, you aren't passing it off as your own work, and the speeches are of historical record/note, so I don't think you're going to have a problem.
Technically speaking, none of that makes any difference (other than reducing the damages awarded if you get sued and lose). If they're copyrighted, they're copyrighted. Educational uses can sometimes be fair use, but a) not always, and almost never if the material is quoted in its entirety, and b) it can easily cost $100k in legal fees to find out.

Whether or not MLK's speeches are still copyrighted is not obvious. They can be, but given when they were written, they would have had to be registered in the first place, and renewed at the appropriate time. Given that there seems to be an entity that is responsible for controlling the estate, it's best to ask.
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Old 04-07-2011, 06:55 PM   #5
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I didn't even consider copyright. My experience has always been with presidents and public officials. And apparently there was even a copyright controversy for MLK (from Wikpedia):

"Because King distributed copies of the speech at its performance, there was controversy regarding the speech's copyright status for some time. This led to a lawsuit, Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc., which established that the King estate does hold copyright over the speech and that CBS, Inc. had standing to sue; the parties then settled. Unlicensed use of the speech or a part of it can still be lawful in some circumstances, especially in jurisdictions under doctrines such as fair use or fair dealing. Under the applicable copyright laws, the speech will remain under copyright in the United States until 70 years after King's death, thus until 2038."

In closing, ignore my previous post.
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:47 PM   #6
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This is one of the ridiculous things about copyright. The words of one of the greatest men in history cannot be used without permission by his money grubbing family....
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Old 04-08-2011, 02:54 AM   #7
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Thanks for all your help. I found a contact address at the bottom of the King Centre page, and have asked whether I need permission and if I do can I have permission.

Regards, Alex
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