Martin Luther King Jr. and Intellectual Property

Just a few years ago at TPMCafe.com, I linked to a video of the "I Have a Dream" speech for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But that video is no longer available online; you can pay $10 to get a copy. And so here's a link to the radio show On The Media's segment called "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Public Imagination." Producer Jamie York examines the oral tradition within which King was working when he created his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech—and the capitalist tradition in which it has been trademarked and licensed. The segment made me think of Lewis Hyde's book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Propertywhich once upon a time was must-reading for certain arts and intellectual types. Hyde's beautifully and movingly written book contends that art and inspiration must circulate freely, not be owned but passed on, which clashes with a property-based society in which we all need to be paid for our efforts. That clash lives with us today in many ways: mixes and mash-ups, the inability of online writers to get paid royalties for reuse of our work, download piracy, and so on. I don't know how to resolve the conflict. But I found the On the Media segment very moving. Enjoy. 

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