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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Supreme Court to Decide Whether States are Immune from Monetary Damages for Copyright Infringement Claims

Supreme Court to Decide Whether States are Immune from Monetary Damages for Copyright Infringement Claims
Supreme Court to Decide Whether States are Immune from Monetary Damages for Copyright Infringement Claims by Lang Chen
November 4, 2019

On November 5, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Allen v. Cooper, a case that will determine whether states are immune from monetary damages for copyright infringement claims.

Background:

In 2015, videographer Frederick Allen and his production company Nautilus Productions sued the State of North Carolina for unauthorized use of their copyrighted videos and photos of an 18th-Century shipwreck. Although the parties had previously reached a settlement, the dispute was revived after the State continued to use Allen’s copyrighted works without compensation. To make matters worse, the State passed a law making all photographs and video material of shipwrecks in custody of North Carolina public record and available for public use without limitation, an action which Allen claimed was a bad faith effort to create a defense to the infringement claim.

In Count I of the lawsuit, Allen argued that the NC law was preempted by federal copyright law, and that it violates the Takings and Due Process clauses of the Constitution. In Count II, Allen alleged copyright infringement. The State moved to dismiss the case, asserting sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, which precludes individuals from suing states in federal court. Allen argued that Congress abrogated State sovereign immunity for copyright infringement claims when it enacted the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act (CRCA) in 1990.

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