SCOTUS rules in QAR suit

A cannon is retrieved from the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck in Beaufort Inlet during a previous dive. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed Monday a lower court’s ruling that Nautilus Productions of Fayetteville cannot pursue its copyright lawsuit against the state of North Carolina regarding video footage the company had taken during dive expeditions. (Cheryl Burke photo)

Editor's note: This article was last updated at 9:47 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, 2020, with more information.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed Monday a lower court’s ruling that Nautilus Productions of Fayetteville cannot pursue its copyright lawsuit against the state of North Carolina regarding video footage the company had taken during expeditions related to the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

In a press statement issued Monday by Nautilus Productions co-owner Rick Allen, he said, “Today, under this Supreme Court ruling, writers, software developers, composers, film-makers and other creators, just like me, cannot avail themselves of the protection Congress gave them from copyright infringement by states. We are saddened by the court’s decision…”

Mr. Allen further said, “Going forward Nautilus will be evaluating all of its options.”

Justice Elana Kagan, who wrote for the court, stated its ruling is based in part on a previous decision in 1999 in Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board versus College Savings Bank, which invalidated a federal statute that sought to hold states monetarily liable for patent infringement.

Justice Kagan further stated there were several precedents over the past 26 years that led to justices barring such lawsuits.

“To reverse a decision, we demand a special justification over and above the belief that the precedent was wrongly decided,” Justice Kagan stated, “and Allen offers us nothing special at all.”

In response to the decision, Attorney General Josh Stein said in an email Monday, “I am pleased by the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of North Carolina in Allen v. Cooper. In today’s ruling, the Court unanimously upheld longstanding precedents recognizing that all States retain certain core aspects of sovereignty, including sovereign immunity from copyright lawsuits.

“My office looks forward to continuing to work with the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources as it continues to recover, preserve, and educate the public about Blackbeard’s historically important shipwreck. I also want to congratulate and thank Ryan Park, who argued this case and has since been appointed North Carolina’s Solicitor General, for all his hard work.”

Mr. Allen filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2019 to reverse a lower court’s decision in July 2018 that favored the state.

Nautilus Productions LLC and Mr. Allen originally filed the lawsuit, Allen v. Cooper, Dec. 1, 2015, in federal court. Mr. Allen contended North Carolina pirated footage he had taken of Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Then, the state passed “Blackbeard’s Law” to justify their actions, according to Mr. Allen.

It’s been a long battle between Mr. Allen and the state regarding the use of video footage and images he captured during state dive expeditions and research on the QAR shipwreck, discovered by Intersal Inc., a maritime research company based in Boca Raton, Fla., in November 1996 in Beaufort Inlet.

Intersal turned the shipwreck over the state, and researchers have conducted hundreds of expeditions to the site and retrieved thousands of artifacts. Many of those are on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

At one point the state began posting Mr. Allen’s photos online without permission and ended up paying Mr. Allen $15,000 in 2013 for the infringement. However, the state continued the use of his images, leading to Mr. Allen filing suit in federal court.

Although the Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous, there were two concurring opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas questioned the sections dealing with deference to precedent, and Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noted they have long disagreed with decisions barring individual lawsuits against state governments.

However, “recognizing that my longstanding view has not carried the day, and that the court’s prior decision” in a similar case “controls this case, I concur in the judgment.”

Intersal has also been involved in a lengthy lawsuit against the state regarding the use of its images. Intersal appealed an unfavorable ruling by a lower state court to the N.C. Supreme Court, which heard the appeal in May.

The N.C. Supreme Court ruled in November that Intersal’s case against the state can be heard in business court, where monetary damages can be awarded.

 

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

 

(Previous report)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed Monday a lower court’s ruling that Nautilus Productions of Fayetteville cannot pursue its copyright lawsuit against the state of North Carolina regarding video footage the company had taken during expeditions related to the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

In a press statement issued Monday by Nautilus Productions co-owner Rick Allen, he said, “Today, under this Supreme Court ruling, writers, software developers, composers, film-makers and other creators, just like me, cannot avail themselves of the protection Congress gave them from copyright infringement by states. We are saddened by the court’s decision…”

Mr. Allen further said, “Going forward Nautilus will be evaluating all of its options.”

Justice Elana Kagan, who wrote for the court, stated its ruling is based in part on a previous decision in 1999 in Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board versus College Savings Bank, which invalidated a federal statute that sought to hold states monetarily liable for patent infringement. Other justices concurred in the ruling.

In response to the decision, Public Information Officer Michele Walker with the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources stated in an email, “We do not typically comment on ongoing litigation.”

Mr. Allen filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2019 to reverse a lower court’s decision in July 2018 that favored the state.

Nautilus Productions LLC and Mr. Allen originally filed the lawsuit, Allen v. Cooper, Dec. 1, 2015, in federal court. Mr. Allen contended North Carolina pirated footage he had taken of Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Then, the state passed “Blackbeard’s Law” to justify their actions, according to Mr. Allen.

It’s been a long battle between Mr. Allen and the state regarding the use of video footage and images he captured during state dive expeditions and research on the QAR shipwreck, discovered by Intersal Inc., a maritime research company based in Boca Raton, Fla., in November 1996 in Beaufort Inlet.

Intersal turned the shipwreck over the state, and researchers have conducted hundreds of expeditions to the site and retrieved thousands of artifacts. Many of those are on display at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

Intersal has also been involved in a lengthy lawsuit against the state regarding the use of its images. Intersal appealed an unfavorable ruling by a lower state court to the N.C. Supreme Court, which heard the appeal in May.

The N.C. Supreme Court ruled in November that Intersal’s case against the state can be heard in business court, where monetary damages can be awarded.

 

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(1) comment

CARTERETISCORRUPT

The government ruling in favor of the government. No surprises there.

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