U.S. Supreme Court Maroons Filmmaker In Blackbeard Video Piracy Fight


U.S. Supreme Court Maroons Filmmaker In Blackbeard Video Piracy Fight

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday delivered a legal broadside to a filmmaker who documented the recovery of notorious English pirate Blackbeard’s wrecked ship, refusing to revive his video piracy lawsuit that sought monetary damages from North Carolina.’);

Allen and Nautilus sued North Carolina in 2015 after state officials used some of the videos on YouTube and a photo in a newsletter. The state also passed a law converting the materials into public records.


Writing for the court, liberal Justice Elena Kagan on Monday agreed, noting that there was no evidence of widespread copyright violations by states. However, Kagan said Congress could try to enact a better-tailored law to would stop states from illegally copying.

“Even while respecting constitutional limits, it can bring digital Blackbeards to justice,” Kagan wrote.

Blackbeard, whose name was Edward Teach, prowled the shipping lanes off the Atlantic coast of North America and throughout the Caribbean before being slain – shot, stabbed and decapitated – during an encounter with British naval forces at North Carolina’s Ocracoke Inlet.

Blackbeard ran the Queen Anne’s Revenge, his flagship, aground on a sandbar 58 years before the United States declared independence from Britain. By law, the ship and its artifacts are owned by the state of North Carolina. The three-masted vessel, roughly 100 feet (30 meters) long, was a French slave ship before being captured and renamed by pirates in 1717.

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After the wreck was discovered in 1996, the state employed divers and scientists to excavate, preserve and study its artifacts while Allen spent years filming and photographing the recovery. Allen obtained federal copyright registrations on the videos and still images.

Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by fellow liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, agreed with the ruling but only because he said the court’s precedents dictated it. Breyer faulted those prior rulings for limiting congressional power to create laws that require states that pirate intellectual property to “pay for what they plundered.”


Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ruling was issued online only rather than the normal practice of the justices announcing opinions from the bench.

U.S. Supreme Court Maroons Filmmaker In Blackbeard Video Piracy Fight


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