[Fourth Branch] Public Piracy of Private Property? Allen v. Cooper

The wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, a ship captained by Blackbeard that sank in the early 18th century, sits underwater just off the coast of North Carolina.

Frederick Allen is the exclusive photographer and videographer of the wreck. In 2013, he found that North Carolina was using his footage on state websites without paying royalties – even though he had federal copyright protection for the material. After a settlement, the state continued to use the footage, and in a dispute now before the Court, Allen claims that the state agency officials are using video/photography materials disregarding due process and copyright law.

North Carolina argues that it is covered by sovereign immunity, and thus shielded from a suit over copyright violations.

Are members of a state agency exempt from copyright lawsuits in the name of state sovereign immunity?

The case will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on November 5.

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As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.

Differing Views:

RTP Podcast: “State-Sponsored Piracy? The Allen v. Cooper Case”

“Blackbeard’s Ship Heads to Supreme Court in a Battle Over Another Sort of Piracy”

“Supreme Court to Rule Whether Congress Appropriately Abrogated State Sovereign Immunity for Copyright Claims in Allen v. Cooper”

Kristen Osenga

Professor of Law

University of Richmond School of Law


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