Frederick Allen, a videographer, and Nautilus Productions, LLC, Allen’s video production company, commenced this action, which, at its core, alleges that North Carolina, its agencies, and its officials (collectively, “North Carolina”) violated Allen’s copyrights by publishing video footage and a still photograph that Allen took of the 18thcentury wreck of a pirate ship that sank off the North Carolina coast. Allen and Nautilus obtained the rights to create the footage and photograph through a permit issued by North Carolina to the ship’s salvors, and Allen subsequently registered his work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Allen and Nautilus also seek to declare unconstitutional a 2015 state law — N.C. Gen. Stat. § 121-25(b) (providing that photographs and video recordings of shipwrecks in the custody of North Carolina are public records) — which Allen and Nautilus claim was enacted in bad faith to provide the State with a defense to their federal copyright infringement action.
North Carolina filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), asserting sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, qualified immunity, and legislative immunity. North Carolina’s claim of sovereign immunity prompted Allen and Nautilus to argue (1) that in a 2013 Settlement Agreement, North Carolina waived sovereign immunity; (2) that in any event the federal Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 had abrogated the State’s sovereign immunity; and (3) that as to their claims for injunctive relief, Ex parte Young provided an exception to sovereign immunity for ongoing violations of federal law. The district court rejected North Carolina’s claims of immunity, and North Carolina filed this interlocutory appeal. Allen and Nautilus filed a cross-appeal. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand with instructions to dismiss with prejudice the claims against the state officials in their individual capacities and to dismiss without prejudice the remaining claims.
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