The “I Have A Dream” Speech Ethics Train Wreck

Dr. King's familiy says this was a "performance" not a speech. Funny: I thought he was just speaking the truth. I guess I was dreaming.

Take Martin Luther King Day, turn right at the “Stopping Online Piracy Act” (SOPA/ PIPA) protests, and you get to the ridiculous fact that you are breaking the law anytime you circulate a recording or video of the Martin Luther King’s immortal “I Have A Dream” speech.

Through a baroque combination of expediency, legal maneuvers, luck and greed, this vital part of American thought, rhetoric, culture and history is restricted by the copyright laws, and will not be in the public domain until 2037, or more than 70 years after King’s words were spoken in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Now, under SOPA/PIPA, if it passes, any educational website that includes a video of the King Video could be taken down by the Feds, but that’s a side issue. I am no expert on the bill, but you can brief yourself on what all the fuss is about here, here, here, and here, the bill itself. Similarly, if I tried to explain the legal process by which courts agreed that a critical chapter in American history should be unavailable to Americans unless they pay a fee, it would 1) bore you stiff, 2) confuse you, and 3) probably be wrong. So I recommend this post by Alex Pasternak over at Motherboard, who does a great job laying out the whole, tortuous, tragic story.

I’ll concentrate on the ethics train wreck feature, of which the basic elements are these: Continue reading