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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nationalize Martin Luther King Jr.

We are in the process of nationalizing and/or federalizing vast stretches of our economy, including the auto industry, banks, and health care. Individual property rights have taken a back seat to political priorities.

I am against this trampling of individual property rights, which are the foundation of our democracy. But if it is going to happen because of the large Democrat majorities in Congress and Obama's personal popularity, then there is one aspect of the economy Democrats should nationalize before anything else: The history of Martin Luther King, Jr.

We created a national MLK holiday in 1986, thereby elevating MLK to a position in the nation's history almost unparalleled in over 200 years. Virtually every school in the country devotes more time to discussing MLK's legacy than the history of any president or war. More so than the election of Barack Obama, the MLK holiday was a turning point in race relations and the recognition of the lingering effects of slavery and segregation.

Yet much of the history of MLK remains off limits to the public, and is controlled through copyright and other intellectual property rights by MLK's family members. Such historic speeches such as the "I Have a Dream" are owned by MLK's family through a foundation:
All of King's speeches and papers are owned by his family, which has gone to court several times since the 1990s to protect its copyright; King obtained rights to his most famous speech a month after he gave it. Now, those who want to hear or use the speech in its entirety must buy a copy sanctioned by the King family, which receives the proceeds.
Few people realize that reprinting the "I Have a Dream" speech without permission of MLK's family, and in many cases the payment of royalties, will result at a minimum in a nasty lawyer letter, and even a lawsuit. These efforts to maintain copyright control over MLK's speeches are international in scope.

The latest example is an attempt by two MLK family members to stop a film about MLK's life because some copyrighted material was used without permission or payment of royalties:
DreamWorks plans the first big-screen portrayal of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, the studio announced Tuesday, but two of King's children immediately threatened legal action because the film deal was brokered without their blessing.
For MLK's family members, the economic structure they have created could not be better. They have nationalized their father's persona, but profit by controlling the written and spoken words which memorialize his history. While the foundation may be not-for-profit, the salaries and other perks the family garners are hardly not-for-nothing.

The time has come to end this madness. If Democrats are going to nationalize much of the economy over the protests of Republicans and independents, then Democrats should first nationalize Martin Luther King, Jr.'s history, including the "I Have a Dream" speech.

UPDATE: Jonathan Turley has a post in which he argues that the King family should have been compelled to waive copyright protection in exchange for the King Memorial on the National Mall:

The King children are at it again: demanding consultation (and presumably payment) for any work on their father. Recently, I wrote a column denouncing the King family’s history of bilking authors, institutions, and even the King Memorial committee for money....

When you give a speech on the congressional mall, it should belong to the nation. More importantly, Congress should have premised the creation of the King memorial on the family releasing this speech to the public domain (as President release their documents in exchange for presidential libraries.

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  1. I find it hard to believe that you possibly can copyright a speech he delivered on national TV and serves as a major historical event. Yeah, you can have copyright, but this steps into the zone of suppression of freedom of speech.

  2. Martin Luther King's Dream has come true in the form of the Obama administration. It's a real nightmare and I hope the King family buries all King's writings deep in the ground never to be seen again.

    I also pray the the Obama administration is buried deep in the ground after the next election.

  3. I can't agree that the writings should be buried,or that Obama is the Dream come true. Just the opposite, some Obama supporters used skin color for political gain, which is the opposite of the Dream.

  4. William

    i assume you saw iowahawk's classic take on the election, on this "historic, inspiring disaster." it ends by saying that dr. King hoped that someday his children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. This election proves that neither one means a damn anymore.

    Harsh, but pretty accurately summed up my continuing mixed feelings.

  5. Hello Birdy has it all wrong. As both the Professor and Aaron points out, MLK JR. believed in judging people by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. This is exactly opposite the great (new liberal)/progressive dream epitomized by the Obama administration. The progressive/Obama dream is to categorize everyone based on how they look, think, speak, etc... and then sort them based on those categories into favored and disafavored groups, then collect campaign contributions fand votes from each group trying to change or maintain their status as politically favorored or not.

  6. We visited MLK's home in Atlanta...what a shame. The family has controlled things to the point they can't build a decent center to honor this man. The dream died.

  7. Two things about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. One, he left the Democratic Party in the 1950's because of its racism. (Attorney General Robert Kennedy, brother of the president, wiretapped King. Racism continues today in both parties.) Two, "Hello Birdy" is dead wrong. King asked that we be judged by the content of our character. Not by our skin color. That was a great thing to say now and then. Here is a very good quote on racism. http://www.aynrandlexicon.com.html

  8. This is a really funny post- it's a brilliant point. It seems to me that in the current "politically correct" 1984-esque world (the bitter irony that Obama burst on to the scene with that iconic Nike (god of victory, right?) commercial with the sneaker breaking the image- reference to 1984, he came to power on a reference to 1984, sorry, every day these days that irony strikes me). Oh yeah, what I was going to say is that, let's face it, what the Left has done is renounce the founding fathers (slaveowners, etc.) in favor of MLK. The Left would have it that America began in the early 60s with MLK, that this is the foundation moment. Ronald Reagan warned us in his Farewell Address that we needed to shore up educational institutions... I recently went to the children's section of a local public library- it's all MLK and Anne Frank with maybe a book for Abraham Lincoln. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, nothing. Nobody knows or cares about the founding of this country, which was radical and brilliant. I find it very moving that the tea party protesters turned to the country's founding.

  9. So lets review where we stand in America today. According to President Obama "A white folks greed runs a world in need". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdLX3aRNaNk <-- Obama's own words in Obama's own voice.

    Yet here we have MLK, Jr.'s wonderful speeches that everyone should hear for the betterment of humanity, but can't without paying off the heirs.

    And the heirs will sue in the courts to protect their source of income. I would call that GREED.

    Now somehow in the alternate reality that liberals occupy when a black person wants to retain rights to intellectual property he inherited its not done out of greed.

    But when a white man does the same its the cause of everything wrong with the world?

  10. Do you support easing copyright restrictions on other culturally important works, or just those owned by black people?