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Senators Ask The U.S. Copyright, Patent Offices to Study Infringement by States

May 3, 2020

In a pair of letters last month, Sens. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) asked the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to begin a study on the extent to which intellectual property owners are suffering infringement at the hands of state government. The request by the two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee comes after a notable Supreme Court opinion in March. The study would prime new legislation on the IP front.

In Allen v. Cooper, the high court held that North Carolina was immune from a filmmaker's copyright suit. Rick Allen's Nautilus Productions had pursued the state for posting his footage of the salvaging of an 18th century pirate ship online, but in a unanimous decision, the justices ruled that Congress hadn't properly abrogated states' immunity under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although Congress had tried to do just that in the early 1990s, Congress' invocation of authority couldn't be justified.

However, near the end of her opinion, Associate Justice Elena Kagan basically invited Congress to try again.

Read more here.  

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