In a strangely ironic decision, the US Supreme Court upheld the State of North Carolina’s claim of soverign immunity over a lawsuit filed by the maker of a video about Blackbeard (the historic pirate), which was made in North Carolina and was used by the State of North Carolina to promote North Carolina as a tourism destination.
Rick Allen’s Nautilus Studios took videos and photos of Blackbeard’s ship (the wreckage of which lies off the North Carolina coast) and had sued the State of North Carolina for infringing online use. The State then passed a statute decreeing that recordings of derelict vessels were public record.
The US Supreme Court ruled that copyright lawsuits could only be pursued in US Federal Court, effectively exempting the State of North Carolina from the suit.
The convoluted details are provided by several sources:
- See article in The Hollywood Reporter
- See article from North Carolina Policy Watch
- See article in Plagiarism Today
- See the US Supreme Court’s Decision
Why it matters
Irony notwithstanding, this situation exposes a hole in copyright regulation and a mismatch between federal and state level policies. The decision also apparently leaves the door ajar to modify existing copyright law to patch the hole.