Selma is missing some very important things: the words of Martin Luther King Jr. His speeches, including the famous “I Have a Dream,” speech are under copyright, and are currently licensed by Steven Spielberg for a project that hasn’t yet been produced.
The Hollywood Reporter claims Paramount unsuccessfully tried to negotiate the rights to use MLK’s words from Dreamworks and Warner Bros, but a spokesperson for the film has claimed that there were no such negotiations.
MLK’s eloquent and moving civil rights speeches had to be rewritten for the film. MLK’s children, who oversee the rights to his words have difficult relationships with each other. Bernice King, and Martin Luther King III have seen Selma, and haven’t spoken out against it, but Dexter Scott King has not seen it, and isn’t even on speaking terms with his siblings.
Paramount had every reason to be wary of copyright issues. The King children have previously sued USA Today, CBS, PBS, Harry Belafonte, and even each other, for using MLK’s words.