Nation

Civil rights song ‘We Shall Overcome’ part of public domain

NASHVILLE — The civil rights anthem ‘‘We Shall Overcome,’’ which was quoted by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and made popular by folk singer Pete Seeger, has been declared a part of the public domain.

Ludlow Music, the song’s publisher, agreed in a New York federal court last week to back down on claims of copyright after losing a summary judgment in the case. The publisher said it agreed the melody and lyrics are ‘‘dedicated to the public domain.’’

The lawsuit was filed by the We Shall Overcome Foundation, a group that wanted to make a documentary about the song, and Butler Films, which produced the 2013 film ‘‘The Butler.’’

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The origins of the song are unclear, but precursors outlined in the lawsuit include hymns and African-American spirituals.

associated press