A Cosmic Copyright Conundrum: ‘Star Trek,’ Space Force, SCOTUS and Blackbeard’s Shipwreck
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Allen v. Cooper, which relates to photos and videos of the sunken remains of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the centuries-old ship once captained by the famed pirate Blackbeard. The plaintiff in that case claimed that North Carolina unlawfully used his copyrighted works. Only two months earlier, the Trump Administration also faced a copyright infringement imbroglio. Following the official Twitter unveiling of the seal for the newly created U.S. Space Force, critics noted that the seal bore a striking similarity to that of Starfleet, the scientific and military force in the fictional universe of the television and film property, Star Trek. While some pointed to the (fairly far-fetched) trademark implications of the Space Force logo, many voices on the Internet also alleged that the government infringed on the copyright for the Starfleet seal. These two cases have brought the issues of copyright infringement and sovereign immunity into the spotlight. To resolve them, one must first look to the tenets of copyright law.