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Sunken Pirate Ship Raised in Copyright Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 28, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Bloody Blackbeard and his ship perished off the coast of North Carolina, but they nearly appeared before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Paul Niemeyer summoned up the notorious pirate during oral arguments about underwater footage of his wreck, Queen Anne's Revenge. The vessel sunk in Beaufort Inlet, the scene of the ship's last voyage.

At one point, the judge said he checked the internet for the disputed images of Blackbeard and his ship but couldn't find them. Oddly, it may determine whether the lawsuit lives or dies.

Real-Live Footage

In Allen v. Cooper, Nautilus Productions claims North Carolina pirated its film. The state says it was a fair use for historical and tourism purposes.

A trial judge ruled the state was not immune from liability. The Fourth Circuit will decide if that ruling was correct.

Apparently anticipating the plaintiff's argument, Niemeyer said he looked for the pirate footage on the internet to see if the state may have lost immunity by continuing to use it after the suit was filed. The judge also felt compelled to ask about the bloody pirate.

"Is North Carolina proud of Blackbeard?" the judge asked. "He was one of the worst of all, wasn't he?"

A Ghost Story

"Aye, your honor, he was," a writer felt compelled to answer. "And what think you, calling on his corpse here?"

Blackbeard died when Navy sailors shot him five times, stabbed him 20 times, and then cut off his head. But that's another story.

In the Nautilus case, the story is about whether the state can be held liable for using the footage without permission. However it ends, the story -- with film footage -- continues on the internet.

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