Supreme Court charts course for Blackbeard's pirate ship

Supreme Court charts course for Blackbeard's pirate ship
© Greg Nash

The Supreme Court will soon be navigating the legal waters surrounding Blackbeard’s pirate ship.

The justices on Monday, in an unsigned order, said they will review the case of videographer Frederick Allen and his production company Nautilus Productions, over whether North Carolina violated copyright law by publishing videos and a photo they took of the pirate ship wreckage off the state’s coast.

North Carolina has shared the images of the Queen Anne's Revenge — the famed pirate's flagship vessel whose wreckage was uncovered in 1996 — to attract tourists to the state.

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And state lawmakers have also passed legislation, known as "Blackbeard's Law," to protect their right to share the video.

Allen and his company allege that the state has violated copyright law by publicly posting the documentary footage, and that the law allowing them to share “all photographs, video records, or other documentary materials of a derelict vessel or shipwreck" is unconstitutional.

But North Carolina claims that its actions are protected under the 11th Amendment of the Constitution, and that the state has "qualified and legislative immunity."

A district court sided with Allen and his company in 2017, while the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of North Carolina last year.

It's unclear exactly when arguments will set sail, but the justices will likely dive into the case once their new term begins in October.