North Carolina is claiming immunity from any penalties that can be incurred by engaging in copyright infringement. Initially, this suit was brought up when the state posted film stills from filmmaker Rick Allen’s documentary, Queen Anne’s Revenge, which shows recovery of the wreckage of Blackbeard’s ship that ran aground in 1718. They reached a settlement then yet they used his documentary again on their website by posting clips from the film. They justified this act by passing a law that classifies any recordings or pictures featuring the vessel as “public records”.
Copyright infringement by states has had a long legal history. In Florida Prepaid v. College Savings Bank, the Supreme Court decided that citizens could not sue the state. They rejected Congress’s previous statement that the states were in the wrong for claiming immunity since they were violating due process which is detailed in the 14th Amendment.
Allen wants his case reviewed by the Supreme Court and says that Congress has the right to determine if states have immunity from copyright infringement. North Carolina opposed such a review and said that it would not be constitutionally correct if Congress attacked them for such an act. This leads Allen to question how directors’ creative works can be protected from use by other entities without their permission. This news was reported by The Hollywood Reporter.