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I Have a Dream

King delivering his speech
at the DC Civil Rights March.

"I Have a Dream" is the identifying phrase of Martin Luther King, Jr's most famous speech. Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington D.C on August 28, 1963, it speaks powerfully and eloquently of King's desire for a future where blacks and whites would coexist harmoniously. President John F. Kennedy, viewing the event on television, could only react to the civil rights leader's speech by remarking, "He's good."

This speech has been through years of court cases, in various jurisdictions, to determine whether it was ever copyrighted— the dispute was based on the fact that King had made his speech publicly to a large audience both live and televised; only one month later did he register for copyright of his speech (as was then required by U.S. copyright law). Finally, on Nov. 5, 1999, in Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc, the 11th circuit of the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the public performance of his speech did not constitute "general publication" nor did it forfeit his copyright. Thus, King's estate is able to require a license fee for redistribution of the speech, whether in a television program, a history book, a dramatic re-enactment, or otherwise.

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