I would love to tell you the story of the greatest American Hero. Unfortunately, I can’t because he has been copyrighted.
Here’s what I can tell you.
On January 15, 1929 an American icon was born in Atlanta Georgia. I can say that because the words, “Atlanta Georgia,” nor the date, “January19, 1929,” can be copyrighted.
This man would grow up to change the world as they knew it at the time. I would love to show you the pictures of this amazing man, but I can’t. His image has been copyrighted too.
He stood for freedom and equality for all human beings in a time when simply being born black was considered to be a crime. He made many great speeches on the subject, but I can’t tell you about them because they’ve been copyrighted. His most moving speech was given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but I can’t tell you what it was because it has been copyrighted. I can mention the “Lincoln Memorial,” because the Lincoln clan didn’t copyright Abe’s name, speeches or image.
He was even awarded the international honor of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Unfortunately, I can not tell you about that either, because it has been copyrighted.
In 1955-56 this incredible man led a boycott of the buses in Montgomery Alabama. Up until then, due to the Jim Crow laws of the day, black folks had to sit in the back of the bus and white folks had to sit in the front of the bus. If they ran out of seats in the front of the bus, black folks had to move further back to give the white folks a place to sit in the front. A group of people, including this incredible man, recognized that there was something wrong with this “Jim Crow,” system of laws and in-justice. I can use the name “Jim Crow,” because that name and his image have not been copyrighted.
So, the people in Montgomery got together and hit the bus company where it hurt; right square in the pocket. You can forcibly make someone get up and move. You can not, however, forcibly make someone ride the bus!
It is the principle rules of plain old economics: Supply and demand. If you are not getting the kind of service that you want and deserve, quit using that service. It worked! Today, people are allowed to sit anywhere they want, with whomever they want, on busses, in restaurants, movie theatres or any place else they want to go. All because of this amazing man who I can’t tell you about because he has been copyrighted.
I can tell you that just about every city in the US has a street named after him. The road that was formerly Highway US 1 was renamed in honor of this man in these parts. There is even a National Holiday in honor of his birthday celebrated on the third Monday of Every January.
April 4, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee James Earl Ray, either by himself or in collusion with others, shot this American hero on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel at 6:01 PM. 7:05 PM, the nation wept as the man died.
I can talk about “James Earl Ray,” and the “Lorraine Motel,” because they have not been copyrighted. I can mention April 4, 1968 because you can’t copyright a date.
If modern tabloids had been there, would they have been allowed to use his picture, even though his image has been copyrighted? Perhaps Julia Roberts and George
Clooney should follow the lead of this man. If they copyrighted their own image, maybe the tabloids couldn’t use pictures of them to run people off the streets and ruin others’ lives.
Certainly someone can feel for the wife and children of anyone who died; especially someone who died in order that so many others could live. Certainly it is within their rights to copyright the image of their father, husband or anyone else that they want. The question is not legality. The question is ethics.
If a man puts himself in the spotlight and uses his notoriety to create change in the human condition; if a man becomes a hero, an icon; if a man promotes ideas and ideals that the rest of the human race embrace because of him; does someone have the right after that to copyright this man’s image? Doesn’t it seem a bit shady that on the one hand someone would use the fact of his speeches to promote him to infamy and in the very next breath with-hold the very ideas that he promoted through copyright for the almighty dollar? How wholesome can we assume ideas to be when human greed enters the equation?
In an article in the “Florida Courier,” which is a local free newspaper, the author quotes Martin Luther King III as saying, “I don’t blame anyone for wanting to make a dollar, but if you make a dollar, we want to make a dime.”
The irony to the entire episode? If the original Martin Luther’s family had copyrighted his own name, speeches and images- we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now at all; because, the name of our hero would have been “Michael Luther King Jr.”