Is county’s MLK image illegal to use?

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I noticed in a recent edition of the Kent News that a flag depicting Dr. Martin Luther King was shown as the new flag of King County. The King Center in Atlanta retains copyrights to the intellectual property of Dr. King including his image and likeness. The following has been cut and pasted from the King Center Web site:

“i. To seek permission to use the intellectual property of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is owned by the King Estate and which includes right of publicity to his name, likeness and image; his copyrighted words; and his recorded voice; please contact Intellectual Properties Management (IPM), manager of the King Estate. Please send all correspondence to the attention of the Licensing Department, IPM, 449 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30312, or fax the request to: 404-526-8969, or email any questions to: licensing@i-p-m.com. NOTE: IPM does not provide legal advice in the area of intellectual property law. If your particular circumstance requires the solicitation of a legal opinion, we strongly suggest that you see the advice of an attorney.”

My concern is that King County has not obtained permission to use Dr. King’s likeness. This may result in a lawsuit and big payout to the King Center for intellectual property rights violations.

My other concern is that if King County has obtained permission to use the King likeness which is increasingly emblazoned on anything representing King County, that taxpayers dollars are wasted on royalties for the use of King’s image. Furthermore, some taxpayers may not agree with the aims of the King Center or the philosophies of Dr. King. Why should they be required to fund this organization with royalties paid with tax dollars?

I have tried to get an answer from Julia Patterson’s office. She and her staff have not had the courtesy to reply to my inquiries. I’m hoping that the Kent News would contact her regarding this matter and obtain some sort of answer. It seems the press can make headway where others can not. Thank you for your consideration. I would like to hear from you on this.

John W. Kohler, Jr., Kent


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