When there is a right, there is a remedy—or so the maxim goes. But when a state infringes upon your copyright, such a remedy may be more difficult to obtain. Just a year ago, the Supreme Court held in Allen v. Cooper that the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act did not abrogate a state’s sovereign immunity, and therefore, absent consent, sovereign immunity prevents suits for copyright infringement against a state. Are there any exceptions to this rule? Are there alternatives causes of action or remedies available? That is the question plaintiffs-appellants posed in Canada Hockey, L.L.C. v. Texas A&M Univ. Athletic Dep’t. And the answer, at least in federal court in the Fifth Circuit, is no, though the Fifth Circuit left open the possibility for recovery in state court.
On March 23, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that States cannot be sued for copyright infringement under principles of sovereign immunity. This ruling arose from a filmmaker’s suit against the state of North Carolina for unauthorized use of his copyrighted works—footage of a ship wreckage.