300 Years After Blackbeard, the Court Examines Another Kind of Piracy
Article By Ann Potter Gleason
The National Law Review
February 17, 2020

Tall ships, terror and treasure formed the backdrop in the recent oral arguments in Allen v. Cooper before the Supreme Court. Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, lies on the bottom of the ocean off the coast of North Carolina where teams of nautical archaeologists have been working since its discovery in 1996 to bring artifacts to the surface. But now this copyright infringement case, related to the recovery of the legendary pirate ship, will cause the Court to examine more than barnacle encrusted canons. The court has the opportunity to take another look at a different type of piracy—intellectual property infringement by the states. Although the case pertains specifically to the Copyright Infringement Clarification Act (CRCA), it could become the vehicle to revisit the underlying assumption of a group of cases that have left patent, trademark and copyright owners without recourse when their intellectual property rights are infringed by states.

Frederick Allen and his company Nautilus Productions, LLC, began documenting the salvage efforts surrounding Queen Anne’s Revenge through videos and still images (“works”) after being retained by Interstal, Inc, the private research and salvage firm that discovered the ship that ran aground in 1718. Allen registered copyrights for the works which are licensed to and commercialized by Nautilus. Sometime before 2013, North Carolina (specifically its Department of Natural and Cultural Resources) infringed Nautilus’s copyright by copying and publicly displaying Nautilus’s works online without Nautilus’s permission. In its settlement agreement with Nautilus, North Carolina agreed to pay Nautilus $15,000 and agreed not to infringe going forward.

Click here to read the full article at National Law Review