In the course of the letter, King uses philosophical, religious and historical examples to get his points across. In the third paragraph he compares his participation in Birmingham to that of the prophets of the eighth century and the Apostle Paul who also traveled to a foreign place to communicate their messages. Since King is also a man of the cloth (reverend) he is able to use these biblical characters in his letter to illustrate his knowledge of the bible and by justifying his actions on their terms he is also able to show his intelligent. In the next few paragraphs he talks about the demonstrations and the four steps in a nonviolent campaign which consist of collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist, negotiation, self-purification and direct action. He goes on to give the facts of the injustices occurring in Birmingham such as their record of brutality, Negro's unjust treatments in the courts and the unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches. He tells them that the Negro leaders had indeed tried to negotiate in good faith but the white leaders refused. In the next negotiations, promises were made so the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to postpone all demonstrations, but soon realized that they were lied to. In paragraph 10, King foresees the questions that are probably in the minds of the clergyman. He tells them that nonviolent direct action was necessary for the community to see that they must confront the issues so that they may be taken seriously and eventually he agrees with the clergyman that
Rev. Bill McGinnis, Director of makes the claim that because a first version of the "Letter From The Birmingham City Jail" published on May 1, 1963 without copyright notice by the American Friends Service Committee that as an open letter released to the public without copyright that it was by default, placed in the public domain. Therefore, when in April 1963, when Dr. King revised and published it with copyright notice, that copyright does not apply to any of the first-version text which had already entered into the Public Domain, only those parts which were new to the second version. The second version shows a date of "April 16, 1963," in the text, but that is the date of the handwritten original Public Domain first version, not the date of the copyrighted second version.
It is fairly clear that a work entered into the Public Domain cannot be later copyrighted (see http:///law_librarian_blog/2009/09/if-you-put-something-into-the-public-domain-can-you-later-take-it- and http:///articles/20090212/ ) However, it is not clear if his releasing the letter to the public in this manner did or did not place it in the public domain. Recent laws have made it such that nearly anything you write is automatically copyrigthed, but that law was not there in the 1960s.