Commentary about the March and the speech, their context and their legacy abounded this week. But many also heard the entirety of Dr. King’s speech, delivered in his own voice. The copyright in the speech is protected and strictly enforced, now by his estate.
Some media outlets secured the required permissions for wide reproduction of the speech or its broadcast. Licence fees for reproduction of the speech fund a non-profit foundation and invite community service in the spirit of Dr. King.
The speech took an interesting path to copyright protection: Copyright was registered shortly after application about a month after the speech, enforced via litigation, and later challenged via a defence to another infringement suit. The defence centred on the suggestion copyright was forfeited by a failure to deliver a then-mandated notice for certain kinds of publication. The rejection of this argument turned on the character of publication of the speech and the applicaton of notice requirements under US copyright law at the time. The ultimate conclusion was that the defendant had not established that Dr. King had forfeited his copyright.