Blackbeard Ship Footage Faces High Court Scrutiny

WASHINGTON (CN) – Taking up three cases Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether North Carolina can be sued for using copyrighted images of Blackbeard’s pirate ship being salvaged off the state coast.

Nautilus Productions and its videographer-founder Frederick Allen brought the underlying lawsuit in 2015. Though they claimed that they had an absolute right to the footage of the vessel known Queen Anne’s Revenge, which sank in 1718 off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina, the state argued that it has sovereign immunity under the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990.

Represented by the law firm Quinn Emanuel, Nautilus and Allen petitioned the Supreme Court for relief after the Fourth Circuit ruled against them last year.

“As Congress recognized, the very nature of copyrights makes them more in need of protection from state infringement than patents are, just as the statutory remedy is more circumscribed,” the petition states.

Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment Monday for any of its orders.

The second case granted certiorari this morning involves claims that IBM mismanaged its employees’ retirement plans. 

Lead plantiffs Larry Jander and Richard Waksman sued the computer giant following a 2014 announcement that IBM was selling its microelectronics business to GlobalFoundries Inc. 

Though IBM had been previously valuing its business at approximately $2 billion, it revealed in 2014 that it had been overvaluing the microelectronics business and thus needed to take a $4.7 billion pretax charge.

IBM’s stock price declined by more than $12 a share following the move, and the Second Circuit ruled last year that Jander and Waksman met the standard to sue under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Attorneys at David Polk & Wardell petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari on IBM’s behalf. The law firm Zamansky represents the retirees.

The third case comes to the court from Texas where Gonzalo Holguin-Hernandez was arrested for marijuana possession and distribution charges in 2017 while already serving a term of supervised release from a 2016 marijuana conviction.

Holguin was given a two-year sentence for the 2016 conviction, and he was sentenced to five years — the minimum — for the 2017 charges. 

The court also revoked Holguin’s supervised release, however, and tacked another year onto the sentence that it said would run consecutively after the six-year sentence.

Holguin seeks a reversal from the Supreme Court now after the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

He is represented by Phil Lynch of San Antonio.

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