NY Mayor Hints of a Deal for King's Papers, As Scholars Caution on Copyright Issue

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Two Pulitzer Prize-winning scholars are asserting that the collection of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s papers, going on exhibit tomorrow at Sotheby's and being auctioned on June 30, is not worth any research institution's investment of between $15 million and $30 million, given the conditions of the sale, under which the King estate retains copyright control. These constraints have undermined previous attempts to sell the collection.

At the same time, Mayor Bloomberg's recent comments in Atlanta leave open the possibility that either institutions or individuals in New York or perhaps the city itself might be interested in acquiring the collection. Speaking in Atlanta at a press conference with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin last week, Mr. Bloomberg responded coyly to Ms. Franklin's mention of New York's interest in the papers.

"We are certainly exploring the possibility, but we know New York is exploring the possibility, we think they are," Ms. Franklin said. "So: Mum is the word."

When a reporter prompted Mr. Bloomberg to comment, his reply was equally cryptic. "I thought the mayor said it very well: 'Mum is the word,'" he said. "But, what is true, clearly, is that this is a very important collection from a scholarly point of view. It is a collection that spans King's whole life and has some documents that really have great historical significance. Historians and librarians are interested in this collection."

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