RALEIGH — A videographer who has spent nearly two decades documenting the discovery and excavation of the Queen Anne’s Revenge said Tuesday he has filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Pat McCrory, North Carolina and others in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The lawsuit filed by Nautilus Productions LLC and its owner Rick Allen alleges that the recently passed state legislation, “Blackbeard’s Law,” is unconstitutional, and that the defendants have infringed copyrights owned and licensed by Mr. Allen and Nautilus, based in Fayetteville.
Mr. Allen, in an email statement released Tuesday, said the state also “violated other federal laws, and engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices.”
Defendants in addition to the governor and the state include employees of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and the Friends of Queen Anne’s Revenge, the nonprofit fundraising arm for the project based in Beaufort.
Mr. Allen said this isn’t the first time the state has been in trouble over the project. Earlier allegations of copyright infringement resulted in a 2013 settlement agreement, and payment of $15,000 to Nautilus and Mr. Allen as compensation for copyright infringement. Then, earlier this year, Blackbeard’s Law was passed, stating that videos, photos and other documentary work in the state’s possession are now public documents and there are no restrictions on their use. The law also states that any agreement to the contrary would be invalid.
Mr. Allen said he immediately noted the problem and documented new copyright infringements that he claims occurred after the 2013 settlement agreement.
He said he was also aware of another lawsuit filed by the shipwreck’s discoverer, Intersal Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., alleging violations of the settlement agreement.
“The State of North Carolina passed Blackbeard’s Law to justify the further illegal taking of my intellectual property and abrogate the 2013 settlement agreement,” Mr. Allen said.
Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico, as well as Carteret and Craven counties, said this summer that the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources had asked him and Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, to add the language to a substitute bill proposed in a Senate Judiciary Committee in July of this year.
Gov. McCrory signed HB 184 into law Aug. 18. The bill gives the state control over “all photographs, video recordings, or other documentary materials of a derelict vessel or shipwreck or its contents, relics, artifacts, or historic materials.”
Mr. Allen said Tuesday that just weeks after that signing, NCDNCR “posted videos and images that illegally incorporated Nautilus’ digital media and violated Nautilus Productions’ registered copyrights and intellectual property rights on its State Government Social Media Archive.”
Mr. Allen continued, “It is outrageous that the agency charged with promoting the arts in North Carolina does so through the misuse of its citizen’s property. Blackbeard’s Law affects every artist, writer, photographer, producer, historian and donor in N.C. and sets a dangerous precedent for N.C. government overreach.”
Since 1998, Nautilus Productions has been the official video crew for the Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project.
Mr. Allen said during that time Nautilus Productions has documented on video archaeological activities and the recovery of artifacts from Blackbeard’s infamous shipwreck for the benefit of, and at zero cost to, the taxpayers of North Carolina.
When viewers see underwater footage of the Blackbeard shipwreck site on local TV, or in documentaries by UNC-TV, the BBC, History Channel, Discovery Channel, or others, Mr. Allen pointed out he provided that footage.
He added that his footage has also been provided to scientists, researchers and the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort for its Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit at no cost to N.C. taxpayers.
State attorneys could not be reached for comment by presstime.
Nautilus Productions LLC is represented by Susan Freya Olive and David McKenzie of Olive and Olive, P.A. and Joe Poe of the Poe Law Firm, PLLC, both of Durham.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.