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This is a copyright story, and like all copyright stories, it just gets more and more and more complicated, because  as I was following up some information about the ‘I have a dream‘ speech, I discovered that its copyright status is being fought over as I write. I had assumed it was in the public domain.

According to Wikipedia:

Because King’s speech was broadcast to a large radio and television audience, there was controversy about the copyright status of the speech. If the performance of the speech constituted “general publication”, it would have entered the public domain due to King’s failure to register the speech with the Registrar of Copyrights. If the performance only constituted “limited publication”, however, King retained common law copyright.

King sued for ownership over the Washington speech, and a court granted an injunction to prevent unlicenced use. King negotiated with various companies who wanted to publish it with the fees going to support the Civil Rights Movement.

But it’s not just about the speech, it’s also about the recorded performance, which according to Motherboard, was purchased by EMI Publishing, now bought over by Sony. And EMI/Sony have been busy in protecting their copyright, ensuring the removal of the video anytime it appears online.

And this is where the United States Congress comes into the story, because until recently it was intending to pass the Stop the Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). Various groups fought against these acts on the grounds that they were inappropriate.

And now the speech is being used by a group called Fight for the Future as a tool against internet censorship. They posted the following video in as many places as possible

So what’s the answer: should a speech given to so many people about freedom be restricted by the copyright police? Should intellectual property be protected by law no matter how it impacts on freedom of speech?

Anyone know a fair answer?

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