Allen v. Cooper, Gov. of NC

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: June 3, 2019
  • Case #: 18-877
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 895 F.3d 337 (4th Cir. 2018)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Congress validly abrogated state sovereign immunity via the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act, Pub. L. No. 101-553, 104 Stat. 2749 (1990), in providing remedies for authors of original expression whose federal copyrights are infringed by States.

This suit arises from North Carolina copying and displaying Petitioner’s copyrighted works documenting the discovery of Blackbeard’s flagship off its’ coast in 1996. Even after a settlement agreement, North Carolina infringed again and passed “Blackbeard’s Law” to convert Petitioner’s works into “public record,” attempting to isolate itself from liability. The district court held the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act (CRCA) was a valid abrogation of state sovereign immunity. The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding Congress could not rely on Article I plenary power, nor the Fourteenth Amendment because it did not ensure that abrogation was “congruen[t] and proportional[].” Petitioner argues Congress had the constitutional authority under the Intellectual Property Clause within Article I to secure exclusive rights for the works of authors. The Fourteenth Amendment authorizes congress to protect property rights from state deprivation. Petitioner argues that the Fourth Circuit mistakenly relied upon Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999), and instead argues the legislative record is substantially more extensive and the reasoning in Florida Prepaid was an “unexamined assumption” which was overturned in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, 546 U.S. 356 (2006). Petitioner argues Congress, under the Fourteenth Amendment, responded “to the targeted violation” of state systematic, unchecked copyright infringement, indicating abrogation of immunity as a “congruent and proportional” response.

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