By Gabrielle Sherwood|www.amdlawgroup.com
A Super Bowl advertisement for Dodge Ram Trucks quickly drew backlash among some of the 100 million viewers. The ad featured Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous sermon titled “The Drum Major Instinct,” which played in the background. The commercial proceeded with images of men and women working to help others and then ended with the image of a Dodge Ram truck. While the uproar has mostly been concerned with the appropriateness of using Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon in a truck ad…. what about the legal side? What about using Martin Luther King Jr.’s intellectual property?
Martin Luther King Jr.’s intellectual property is managed by Intellectual Properties Management (IPM). IPM is the exclusive licensor of the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon is protected under copyright law. The rights granted under copyright law include the right to reproduce, the right to distribute copies, the right to publicly perform and display, along with the right to prepare derivative works. Therefore, anyone who wants to use the sermon would need to get permission or a license from Martin Luther King Jr.’s estate to do so. So the overarching question is: Did Dodge get permission? The answer is an easy yes.
On the day after the ad aired, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son, Dexter King, issued a statement that said the MLK estate had approved the ad. More simply put, Dodge had permission to use the sermon.
“We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program,” the firm, Intellectual Properties Management, said in its statement.
While we can each form our own opinions about the advertisement itself, there is unlikely going to be any legal ramifications as we move forward.
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