- Court: United States Supreme Court
- Area(s) of Law: Copyright
- Date Filed: March 23, 2020
- Case #: 18–877
- Judge(s)/Court Below: KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined, and in which THOMAS, J., joined except for the final paragraph in Part II–A and the final paragraph in Part II–B. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which GINSBURG, J., joined.
- Full Text Opinion
Petitioner created videos and photos of efforts to salvage the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship, which sank in North Carolina waters. North Carolina displayed Petitioner’s work in print and online, which resulted in Petitioner filing suit for copyright infringement. North Carolina moved to dismiss on the ground of sovereign immunity, but Petitioner argued that Congress had abrogated sovereign immunity under the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 (CRCA). The district court denied North Carolina’s motion, reasoning that the CRCA provided clear evidence of Congress’s intent to abrogate sovereign immunity for copyright claims against States. However, the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding the federal statute invalid under Supreme Court precedent. On review, the Supreme Court affirmed that precedent foreclosed arguments that Congress had the authority to abrogate States’ sovereign immunity for copyright claims under Article I’s Intellectual Property Clause and Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. First, the Court reasoned that Petitioner failed to provide special justifications to overcome stare decisis where precedent concerning patents established that Congress cannot use Article I to circumvent the limits of sovereign immunity. Second, the Court reasoned that deficiencies in the legislative record for the CRCA paralleled the deficiencies seen in the Court’s decision involving patents, meaning that Petitioner failed to provide sufficient evidence of a Fourteenth Amendment injury under the Court’s congruence and proportionality test. AFFIRMED.