‘We Have a Brand!’

John Fund, National Review, January 4, 2015

The film Selma, a soaring biographical drama about Martin Luther King’s role in the 1965 civil-rights marches, opens nationwide this week. Critics and audiences are lavishing it with praise, but it could have been an even more meaningful film if its producers hadn’t been blocked by the King estate–represented by a for-profit company, King, Inc.–from using words from King’s speeches, including “I have a dream.”

Selma still works because filmmaker Ava DuVernay was able to construct phrases that conveyed King’s oratory without using his actual words. King, Inc., is controlled by King’s surviving children and holds the copyright to King’s speeches. It has so aggressively enforced its legal rights as to make it almost impossible to use those speeches without paying a hefty fee. Film rights to King’s speeches have been licensed to Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks. DuVernay told the Washington Post, “We knew those rights are already gone, they’re with Spielberg.”

She also noted that she knew there were strings attached to the rights: “With those rights came a certain collaboration.” In other words, the King estate uses its control over the copyright to control how King is depicted. It’s perhaps no surprise that no major feature film about King has been produced before now.

Recent court cases suggest that DuVernay would have had a strong “fair use” defense for using some excerpts of King speeches. But she apparently decided it wasn’t worth the risk of litigation. As recently as 2013, that risk prevented many media outlets from using anything more than the briefest of snippets in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the “I have a dream” speech.

The risk is real. When Clarence Jones, who was a personal attorney and speechwriter for King, was told by attorneys from King, Inc., that if he wanted to use the full speech in his book Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech That Transformed a Nation, he would have to pay $20,000.

“If it wasn’t for me copyrighting that speech, the King children wouldn’t today own their biggest moneymaker,” Jones complained. He said his small publisher feared a lawsuit, so he as the author had to indemnify them from any costs of such a suit. He then dared King family lawyers to sue the man who helped write “I have a dream.” They chose not to.

But there are many other occasions when the legal threats have prevailed. In 1996, the King estate sued CBS for using portions of “I have a dream.” CBS settled the suit by making a donation to the family’s King Center. The family had earlier sued USA Today for reprinting the speech’s text and won another out-of-court settlement and an apology. {snip}


But the group that was behind raising $100 million to build the King monument on the National Mall had to drop its name–the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation–in 2013 because King, Inc., demanded it pay a licensing fee. “At one point as the memorial was ready to be dedicated, King, Inc., had all of Dr. King’s books removed from the bookstore on the site of the memorial. The King children wanted to control the bookstore and reap all profits from the selling of merchandise,” Roland Martin, a former CNN commentator who was active in building the memorial, has complained. “All of this despite the foundation paying MLK children through King, Inc., $2.7 million to use the likeness of King and his quotes on the memorial on the National Mall.”


Hosea Williams, who in 1968 stood with Dr. King on the motel balcony where he was shot, told the Ottawa Citizen that the profiteering has sullied the King message of humility. “It wasn’t white racists, nor was it the white government that did it; the people who killed King’s dream are those closest to him, and that’s the nightmare,” he said.


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  • dd121

    Squeezing every penny out of the King name says more about the King family than all his plagiarized speeches put together.

    • dukem1

      Give;em some credit…They’re hard core capitalists.
      Hard to think there is some critical mass of Am-renners who think King was a saint with a message so sacred it belongs to all of humanity..
      Now, for people actually willing to pay for his stuff, and then make a buck off it,,,well. there’s a sucker born every minute, isn’t there?

      • Bobbala

        Capitalists for me and communism for thee is fascism.

        • dukem1

          I think ya went over my head there….

          • Bobbala

            They want the freedom to decide for themselves and everybody else. That would be despotic.

      • dd121

        The liberals tried to turn that man, with his many character flaws, into some sort of liberal saint. Along with his family, it’s not hard to imagine what the reality is.

  • Speaking of Selma, I commented here the last time there was a thread about the movie that the two reasons I thought it was coming out now were: (1) The 50th anniversary of Selma is in March, and (2) With the 2016 Democrat nominee for President unlikely to be black, the left is going to do all it can to remind old black people that they’re black and there were these “bad ole days,” to goose up black turnout for 2016.

    I think I’ve discerned another reason:

    (3) The movie itself supposedly makes LBJ out to be an almost absolute enemy of the civil rights movement. When we know it was the total opposite. However, I think the motivation for doing that is to try to revise history to make the civil rights movement seem to be purely and consummately and exclusively a black accomplishment in the face of a 100% hostile white political establishment, to portray the notion that black people actually have the ability to accomplish something on their own. When we all know that the civil rights movement was a white (or “white”) accomplishment, wherein the black leading preachers of the day just happened to be able to nose in on a little bit of the credit.

    • phillyguy

      every Hollywood movie portraying blacks has been lies for the last 30 years..they make it up to seem that blacks either invented something or are leaders of the human race.

      • Reynardine

        Read Hollywood in Blackface by Paul Kersey. I recently started reading it. I knew the numinous negro pandering was bad, but I didn’t know it was THAT bad or started that early.

        God help us, the train isn’t going to collide, it’s already colliding.

      • LHathaway

        One might guess it has only begun. I just can’t imagine, when blacks run things, all the films will be about how bad blacks are. It would certainly be a surprise reversal from the direction things seem destined to go in.

  • MekongDelta69

    Groveling from the neo-con National Review

  • Another innocent negro movie for the masses.
    No one can argue that segregation has been a success.

  • superlloyd

    Civil rights really means gibsmedats. King’s family are on the same level as Sharpton, Jackson and other amoral race hucksters. Their only motive is the profit one.

  • Bryce Armstrong

    “It could have been an even more meaningful film if the producers hadn’t been blocked by the King estate”

    Aw shucks what a missed opportunity, they’ll never get another chance rehash the overblown windbags greatest moment. And its such an obscure speech, its not as if -not-using it could be a breath of fresh air, then again when you are a one trick pony like “Dr” King I guess you have to go with what little you’ve got.

    “Selma still works because filmmaker Ava DuVernay was able to construct phrases that conveyed King’s oratory without using his actual words.”

    Quite an accomplishment considering how profound and nuanced the great ones prose was…

    …but seriously I could have conveyed Mike Kings speeches by simple drawing a cartoon of him with his big ol’ hand sticking out.

  • Luca

    So the heirs own the rights to King’s speeches. You mean the ones written by his Jewish handler Stanley Levinson? Doesn’t the Levinson family have something to say about this?

    • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

      Don’t worry they are getting a good share of the profits. You know how jews get their money.

  • John

    “the King estate uses its control over the copyright to control how King
    is depicted. It’s perhaps no surprise that no major feature film about
    King has been produced before now.” What can one say at this point other than “thank heaven for small blessings”.

    • Laura Dilworth

      The Jews r mad because they are not given credit for their contribution to the civil rights movement in the movie

      • John

        Why doesn’t that surprise me? I’d read an article that mentioned LBJ was inaccurately portrayed as an “enemy” of the civil rights movement but not this.

        • Laura Dilworth

          Dailykennn I think. Maybe radix

        • Laura Dilworth

          Lbj was initially against the civil rights movement

          • John

            I didn’t know that. He came around though. His “Great Society” program and “War on Poverty” have cost the taxpayers of this country somewhere in the vicinity of 18 trillion dollars by some estimates since 1965. This figure courtesy of an article on the Godfather Politics web site.

          • Laura Dilworth

            He was against it as a senator. Don’t think we can get out of this debt

      • bilderbuster

        They don’t want the fact that they were absolutely 100% behind the funding of the entire “Civil Rights Movement” and the communist agitation from the start not to mention their current stranglehold on the media and all of the nonstop Anti-White hatred it pumps in our faces everyday.

        • Laura Dilworth

          I thought it was a badge of honor for them

          • bilderbuster

            They like to say they support/supported “Civil Rights”.
            They don’t want it known that they instigated, created and funded the Anti-White uprising from the beginning for their own hateful purposes.

          • Laura Dilworth

            And speech writing?

          • bilderbuster

            Liquor and hookers too.
            Don’t forget Kevie Kaplan and friends had to pick up the tab for the NAACP Oy Vey!

  • Pax Romana

    Whenever I see this photo of MLK’s statue, I see a Plagiarizing Marxist Pragmatist Woman Beating Adulterer, with his right hand reaching for his Left side, and his left hand holding a rolled up list of local Prostitutes and their phone numbers. Completely covered up in a thick coating of Liberal Media whitewash.

    • IstvanIN

      Doesn’t really look like him. It has a vaguely Oriental look to it. Black guy with a Chinese mother kind of look.

      • Who Me?

        You’re right, it doesn’t look much like him, but who cares really? Except for different sizes, they all look pretty much alike anyway.

      • Spikeygrrl

        This was old news years ago.

        IIRC, the sculptor was Chinese, and the line in the sand was drawn between those who believed that the sculpture’s Chinese Communist propaganda style was saying something politically profound, and those who believed the sculptor was simply “stuck in a rut” stylistically because he was never before permitted by his government to work in other styles.

        Don’t quote me on anything; I just remember reading about it a few years back. And I personally think that the USSR “Heroic” propaganda style kicks Mao’s all the way around the block…because, not at all coincidentally, both the artists and the models were White.

        • LHathaway

          This story was certainly old years ago. I don’t know enough about art to agree with you or not. If so. . . you Are a clever girl, I’m sure you can find a way to express your feelings in a way that sounds less, obnoxious?
          Blacks can do something you can’t? Must be their superior. . . . . . . . . racism. “He was never before permitted by his government to work in other styles”. That was interesting.

          • Spikeygrrl

            Kinda hard to quit being “obnoxious” when — after several re-reads — I still see no obnoxiousness in what I wrote. Sincerely sorry. 🙁

          • LHathaway

            Reverse the races, “. . . both the artists were Black”. and I suspect you would find your own comment quite offensive coming from someone else and would in fact be firing off a nasty post in repose. Perhaps that’s genuinely some kind of progress on our part – we’ve become as equally self-centered as people of color, but I doubt it. There’s more work to do. . .

          • Spikeygrrl

            Suspect all you want to; theoretically, this is still a free country.

            But you’d be incorrect, because
            1) the swap you suggest turns my post into gibberish: it is simply NOT TRUE.
            2) If you insist on your own wording, you’d have to rewrite that whole section of my post by assuming an Asian identity and then stating that you, personally, prefer Asian styles of art over Caucasian ones. That’s a perfectly reasonable stance…just as mine was.

          • LHathaway

            Darn this trifecta of races. I can’t think straight anymore.

          • Spikeygrrl

            I know the feeling. Hang in there!

    • Evette Coutier

      I see a waste of good stone on a useless statue.

    • Alexandra1973

      Needs a bit of decorating.

      • John

        Bath tissue perhaps?

    • Whitetrashgang

      Just like JFK, they are all scumbags. Just saying.

      • Laura Dilworth

        How is JFK scum?

        • throttler

          He was another womanizing jerk.

          • Laura Dilworth

            True but I still think it’s worse for clergy to womanize

    • I love the fact that they portrayed him in white stone, bit of a freudian slip on the part of the design team? A display of what they wish they all were, but can never be.

  • Jim Kental


  • R L Buds

    It’s funny how they always try to profit from their dead “loved ones”. These idiots are just like mike brown’s family. We mourn in private and they just try to profit from their “loss”. We are truly fundamentally different from them, there is no hope for peace.

  • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

    The last negro movie I saw was about James brown and I walked out of the theater because I could not understand what the actor playing Brown was saying.

  • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

    Did they have made up racism scenes like they did in Butler where 99% of the movie was made up?

  • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

    So blacks are showing that racism does sell like sex.

    • LHathaway

      Perhaps blacks have known that for some time? Is there a work of fiction by blacks that the story is not about the characters getting in touch with their blackness? Perhaps Whites need to learn this? Racism and sex both hold the interest of consumers, and sell.

  • Augustus3709

    And the real Martin Luther’s relatives should sue for name infringement.

  • HE2

    Could not read the entire article.
    What I did read was enough to know this family is another example of scrounging, opportunistic, low life, no class gibsmedat behavior we have come to expect.

  • Dick Hatewell

    It absolutely makes my head spin to see White people remain willfully ignorant of the absolute joke that MLK is/was.
    Plagiarism? Boozing? Whore-mongering? Embezzlement? …get that boy a statue!