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Pirate video pirated?

Sidebar ponders what Blackbeard would think were he to encounter a modern digital pirate.

It seems a safe assumption that he would not think highly of those who download and share files illegally, not because he disagreed with the act of taking things that weren’t his, but because it looks considerably dweebier than lighting your head on fire to scare your enemies into giving you their plunder.

Upon closer consideration, he might also object to the government he opposed for so long turning coats and acting like pirates themselves, as a North Carolina videograph-arr has recently alleged.

In late March, attorneys for the state of North Carolina asked a Fourth Circuit appeals judge again to dismiss the case of Frederick Allen, owner of Nautilus Productions, who claims they used his video without permission.

The case originated when Allen sued the state for conspiring to steal video he shot of an excavation of Blackbeard’s ship.

The Nautilus website says that they have been the official video crew documenting the excavation of the Queen Anne’s Revenge since it began in 1996.

Their images and video have been used in everything from books and magazines to live news broadcasts and documentaries which aired on ABC, CNN, National Geographic and many others. Those companies paid to use the video, or at least asked permission first. Allen says that North Carolina did not.

This comes after the state previously settled a similar lawsuit with Nautilus in 2013 for $15,000 over improper use of other excavation video clips.

The state recently argued that they cannot be sued for infringement because they used short clips and they did so for the “sake of the public good.”

Allen is arguing the state conspired to steal his footage by lobbying to pass a law in 2015 to designate all shipwreck footage as part of the public record.

“It is outrageous that the agency charged with promoting the arts in North Carolina does so through the misuse of its citizens’ property,” Allen said on the Nautilus website. “Blackbeard’s law … sets a dangerous precedent for N.C. government overreach.”

The state countered that they are no longer posting Allen’s work and that the previous settlement with Allen allowed them to use his footage.

Oral arguments ended in late March. An opinion in the case may take from two to six months.

Until then, Allen sums the case up well in a statement on his website: “It was surreal … listening to the State’s attorneys try to defend the State’s own acts of piracy,” he said. “Taking our work, and then passing a law that tries to justify the illegal conduct isn’t right.”

Sidebar again cannot help but think, what would Blackbeard do?

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