(Original Caption) Members of the family of Martin Luther King, Jr., join actor Billy Dee Williams, (R), in singing 'We Shall Overcome,' on stage of the Ambassador Theater, September 20th, after premiere of 'I Have A Dream.' The play with music is based on the words of the late Civil Rights leader. Left to right are Coretta King, Martin Luther King Sr., and his daughter, Christine King Ferris.

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Attorneys are fighting to make it happen.

Rachaell Davis
Apr, 15, 2016

The legal team behind the ruling that freed the original “Happy Birthday” song from copyright laws now has their sights set on doing the same for Civil Rights Movement anthem and modern-day protest song “We Shall Overcome.”

Wolf Haldenstien, the law firm who filed the class action suit to have the copyright removed from the song, is working on behalf of representatives from the We Shall Overcome Foundation who are looking to use the song in an upcoming documentary. The Richmond Organization and Ludlow music are defending their alleged filing and subsequent awarding of exclusive ownership rights to a derivative of the song with the copyright office.

A Tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The plaintiffs apparently reached out to the defendants attempting to obtain permission to use the song in their upcoming documentary but were denied, which in turn led them to take legal action. The pursuing attorneys are contesting that the alleged copyright is not valid on the basis that the defendants did not take the proper steps to obtain the rights to the song and therefore have no grounds for prohibiting “the use, reproduction, distribution or public performance of the melody or lyrics” of the song because they did not receive permission from the creators of the original song to do so, according to official court documents obtained by THR.

The Wolf Haldenstein legal team pursuing the case is seeking damages of up to $150,000 and looking to have “We Shall Overcome” established in public domain as a result of the defendants refusing to grant the plaintiffs permission to use the song in their upcoming project. Sounds like an uphill battle is ahead for all parties involved.