All of King's speeches and papers are owned by his family, which has gone to court several times since the 1990s to protect its copyright; King obtained rights to his most famous speech a month after he gave it. Now, those who want to hear or use the speech in its entirety must buy a copy sanctioned by the King family, which receives the proceeds.
Joseph Beck, an attorney for the King family and an expert in intellectual property rights, said, "The King family has always supported providing access to the speech and to the video for educational purchases and encourages interested persons to contact the King Center in Atlanta." According to the family's Web site, videotapes and audiotapes of the speech can be purchased for $10, but one copy often is not enough for an entire school, and many schools don't know what materials are available.
Many schools use the text -- often taken in violation of the copyright from the Internet. The King family, however, wants teachers to use the speech and has not pursued legal action against educators, Carson said.
Critics of the King family's decision not to put the speech in the public domain say the poorest children are the most deprived.
"The more elite the institution, the easier it is to pay the mandatory fee," said David J. Garrow, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference" and now a history professor at Cambridge University.
"So, to use a King phrase, 'the least of these,' I'll say that the least of these among schools and students are those who cannot afford the least access to his teachings," he said.¶