Don’t use MLK to sell capitalism — he’s going to rise from the dead and bite you

Dodge tried to use Martin Luther King Jr’s words to sell trucks in the Superbowl yesterday. They used the wrong speech, though: someone overlaid a more appropriate speech on the ad.

That is perfect.


  1. microraptor says

    Haven’t seen the original commercial since I avoided watching the Superbowl, but I can imagine just which speech was used.

    This might actually beat the time the coal industry used 14 Tons in an ad.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I missed it trying to sell trucks. I saw at as slapping “45” in the face with the truck as just the set piece. I am too distorted these days to think anything besides politics. My bad

  3. unclefrogy says

    we forget who MLK actually was and what he was all about.
    glad someone decided to remind us.
    uncle frogy

  4. monad says

    Sad to see this is as credited “someone”. I guess though it is actually from @curaffairs? Astead did the right thing and linked to the Youtube video in his next post, but of course that goes nowhere now, because you don’t get to appropriate Chrysler’s IP to make a statement.

  5. davidnangle says

    unclefrogy, the people with the money to influence us really, REALLY want us to forget what he was all about.

  6. Gregory Greenwood says

    If these greedy, corrupt arsehats were transformed into zombies, it would doubtless result in a profound improvement in their personalities and moral character. At least zombies aren’t responsible for their appetite for brains. The Dodge execs who chose to cynically misrepresented MLK’s world view to sell cars cannot claim as much.

  7. Snidely W says

    The use of MLK’s voice, works, etc., has to be licensed from the MLK family.
    So they seem to be cool with it.
    WTF is up with that?

  8. Porivil Sorrens says

    They can’t just opt out of capitalism, and people have to do things to keep bread in the fridge.

    Licensing out written/spoken works is like, one of the more benign forms of capital exchange, too.

  9. Raucous Indignation says

    @8 Snidely W. Are you sure about that? Are you sure the family has copyright on words spoken decades ago?

  10. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    After 50+ years, are MKL’s words considered in the public domain?

  11. robro says

    According to Politico, the MLK estate controls the copyright on his speeches. They have sold the rights numerous times, including for an AT&T ad in 2013. They have also sued for infringement. They will hold the copyright until 70 years after his death, January 1, 2039.

  12. chigau (違う) says

    microraptor #1
    I have not heard the “16 tons” coal company ad but I have heard
    Dylan’s “times are a’changing” in a bank commercial.

  13. chigau (違う) says

    Dave Grain #18
    “family” as a corporate entity or people with the name “King”

  14. Dave Grain says

    chigau, I’m not sure there is any functional difference. I refer you to the Politico link in robro’s #13, which includes: “The litigious MLK estate, controlled now by King’s descendants…”.

  15. robro says

    Dave Grain — I think it’s difficult to know the nature of King’s family from the way the estate works. The Martin Luther King Jr. Estate is rather opaque…I can’t find anything about it on the Internet except articles about the litigations and internal fighting (which is an old family tradition).

    I assume the estate was set up by their parents and that could have been done in ways that limited their direct involvement in copyright management. This appears in the Martin Luther King Center (started by Coretta Scott shortly after his death) “about” page: “To obtain proper authorization for use of Dr. King’s works and intellectual property, please contact Intellectual Properties Management (IPM), the exclusive licensor of the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc.” So there may be a contractural arrangement with IPM, set up by one or both of their parents, or even the surviving children, that makes these decisions and the surviving family might not have much to say about it.

    Or perhaps they do. Perhaps they consider any money they receive from King’s legacy to be a small repayment for losing their father at such young ages (the youngest, Bernice, was 5). Perhaps they invest some of the money into the King Center or in the many other civil rights activities that they have been involved with over the years. I’m betting we don’t know.

    This article in Slate about the Ram commercial ends with tweets between some unknown person and Bernice King, his daughter. The first tweet says “So that means the King children allowed Dr. King’s voice to be used to sell me a Dodge truck.” She says “No.”

    This article in says Time Warner estimates the estate $30 to $50 million and takes in $2 to $5 million per year. Not sure why Time Warner is the source of this.

  16. tbtabby says

    I’m disappointed none of the commercials have gotten conservatives outraged this year. I was sure that “how to family” ad would do it.