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EMI takes down “I Have a Dream” speech on Internet Freedom Day

Internet rights crusaders Fight for the Future uploaded Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to video sharing sites in honor of Internet Freedom Day. The label that owns the copyright to the speech made sure it didn't stay up long.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Jan 18, 2013   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 3:13 am CDT

What happens when you try to celebrate Internet Freedom Day by uploading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech?

Why, the record company that owns the copyright to King’s famous words comes along and takes it offline, of course!

That’s what happened to activists at Fight For the Future, who decided, as part of their Internet Freedom Day campaign Wednesday, to upload Dr. King’s best-known speech as a “small act of civil disobedience.” They noted that Friday’s Internet Freedom Day is only three days before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “a day that we celebrate one of the greatest freedom activists of all time.”

Through a twist of copyright fate—or a perfect example of how corrupt copyright law can be, depending on who you talk to—”I Have A Dream” belongs to EMI Publishing, which purchased the rights from the King estate in 2009. EMI previously made headlines by repeatedly claiming, incorrectly, that a prominent YouTuber’s two original songs were actually clips from a 1974 disco hit it owned the rights to.

Fight For the Future knew the risks when they uploaded the speech to video sharing sites Amara and Vimeo Thursday evening. Still, they didn’t expect EMI to act this quickly.

“We thought people would have a chance to share it,” Fight For the Future cofounder Tiffiniy Cheng told the Daily Dot. She received no particular notice, just an automated, standardized takedown informing them of copyright infringement.

Still, Cheng wasn’t deterred. “We’re gonna get it up on YouTube,” she said.

And, true to her word, here it is (for as long as it escapes the label’s notice, anyway): 

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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*First Published: Jan 18, 2013, 7:16 pm CST