How To Make a Movie About MLK, Jr. Without Using His Speeches

The coveted Oscar® nominations were announced yesterday. This year’s holiday release SELMA was nominated for Best Picture and Original Song. SELMA tells the story of the role Martin Luther King, Jr. played in the march from Selma to Montgomery. This Alabama gal cannot wait to see this movie! But, what this Alabama gal will not see, and you won’t either, is any of Dr. King’s original speeches. Not one.

What makes this story about this movie even more interesting to me is the backend copyright aspect. The King Estate owns and is very protective over all speeches given by Dr. King. If you want to use any image of Dr. King or use any of his speeches you must license thru the King Estate.

The Hollywood Reporter shared several weeks ago how the intellectual property of Dr. King’s speeches had previously been licensed to Steven Spielberg to a film he was developing. Because the King Estate entered into what I assume are longstanding exclusive agreements with Spielberg, they could not license out the speeches to the newly scripted SELMA. That’s where the filmmakers did what they do best.

The article goes on to detail how the speeches have the same context and message; however, the words you hear in the movie are fundamentally altered. When copyright said “no” the film makers decided to do what they do best and get creative. You can read the entire article HERE.

For an earlier post I wrote about Dr. King’s I Have a Dream Speech not being in the public domain, be sure to check out my post titled Copyright Law – A Dream or a Nightmare?

What do you think about this creative liberty taken by the makers of SELMA?  Take part in the conversation below in the Comments section, and Stay Tuned In!

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