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Nautilus Productions

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Nautilus Productions
Company typePrivate
HeadquartersFayetteville, NC, USA

Nautilus Productions LLC is an American video production, stock footage, and photography company incorporated in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1997. The principals are producer/director Rick Allen and photographer Cindy Burnham. Nautilus specializes in documentary production and underwater videography, and produced QAR DiveLive, a live webcast of underwater archaeology filmed at the wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge in 2000 and 2001.

History and output[edit]

Nautilus has produced several documentaries, including The Kill Zone for the National Geographic International Channel; Assault on America: The Battle for Torpedo Junction for the Canadian History Channel; and the Mystery Mardi Gras Shipwreck for Texas A&M University; BOEM; and the Louisiana State Museum.[1][2] Above the water Nautilus spent seven years covering NASCAR for Office Depot and also worked with Bob Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic, on a piece for CBS 60 Minutes.[3]

Nautilus Productions is also the owner and licensor of stock footage from the Queen Anne's Revenge Shipwreck Project.[4][5] Nautilus documented the shipwreck recovery for nearly two decades and many documentaries created about the pirate Blackbeard and the Queen Anne's Revenge Shipwreck Project have incorporated project videographer Rick Allen's stock footage or video in their content.[6]

In 2000, Nautilus Productions co-produced with Bill Lovin of Marine Grafics, a week-long live internet broadcast known as QAR DiveLive from the Blackbeard wreck site and the Queen Anne's Revenge conservation lab.[7] At the time, this was the first live video and audio broadcast from an underwater archaeological site to the World Wide Web. Students were able to watch the underwater archaeology in real time, virtually visit the lab and ask questions of the scientists exploring the shipwreck.[8] The twice-daily live distance learning programs reached students from as far away as Canada during the five days of broadcasting.[7] In October 2001 Allen and Lovin again co-produced the QAR DiveLive 2001 webcasts with similar success.[9][10]

Other projects include videography on the USS Monitor and HMCS Canada (Queen of Nassau) with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),[11][12] the recovery of a World War II era B-25C Mitchell bomber from Lake Murray, SC for the Mega Movers series on the History Channel,[13] and the SS Commodore, made famous in author Stephen Crane's short story "The Open Boat".[14]


  • Lights, Camera ... Shipwreck!?! Multimedia at Four Thousand Feet. Kimberly L. Faulk and Rick Allen, Historical Archaeology, Vol. 51, Issue 3, The Mardi Gras Shipwreck: The Archaeology of an Early Nineteenth-Century Wooden-Hulled Sailing Ship, September 2017, pp. 418–424.[15]

Legal Issues & the United States Supreme Court[edit]

In 2013 and 2015, the state government of North Carolina uploaded Nautilus Productions videos of the wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge to its website without permission. As a result, Nautilus filed suit in federal court over copyright violations and the passage of "Blackbeard's Law" by the North Carolina legislature.[16][17][18] Before posting the videos the North Carolina Legislature passed "Blackbeard's Law", N.C. General Statute §121-25(b),[19] which stated, "All photographs, video recordings, or other documentary materials of a derelict vessel or shipwreck or its contents, relics, artifacts, or historic materials in the custody of any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions shall be a public record pursuant to Chapter 132 of the General Statutes."

On November 5, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Allen v. Cooper.[20][21][22][23] On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of North Carolina and struck down the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act, which Congress passed in 1989 to attempt to curb such infringements of copyright by states.[24][25][26]

As a result of the ruling Nautilus filed a motion for reconsideration in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.[27] On August 18, 2021 Judge Terrence Boyle granted the motion for reconsideration which North Carolina promptly appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.[28] The 4th Circuit denied the state's motion on October 14, 2022.[29] Nautilus then filed their second amended complaint on February 8, 2023 alleging 5th and 14th Amendment violations of Nautilus' constitutional rights, additional copyright violations, and claiming that North Carolina's "Blackbeard's Law" represents a Bill of Attainder.[30][31]

Eight years after the passage of Blackbeard's Law, on June 30, 2023, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill repealing the law.[32]


  1. ^ "Mardi Gras Shipwreck". University of West Florida. August 21, 2014. Archived from the original on August 12, 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  2. ^ "Archaeological Excavation of the Mardi Gras Shipwreck (16GM01), Gulf of Mexico Continental Slope" (PDF). Texas A&M University. July 2008. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  3. ^ "Bob Ballard on 60 Minutes". Quadangles Online. January 7, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  4. ^ "Queen Anne's Revenge Project Partners". North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  5. ^ Henderson, Fay (March 21, 2014). "Queen Anne's Revenge Fact Sheet" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  6. ^ Law, John (February 10, 2009). "Blackbeard's Glowing Shipwreck". P3 Update Magazine. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Eslinger, Kimberly; Wilde-Ramsing, Mark (June 2002). "Live from Morehead City, it's Queen Anne's Revenge" (pdf). North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  8. ^ Lawrence, Tom (October 3, 2000). "Take an online journey to see Blackbeard's shipwreck". WRAL. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  9. ^ Sellers, Dennis (Oct 1, 2001). "Apple, QuickTime help with underwater diving trip". Macworld. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  10. ^ "QAR DiveLive Returns" (PDF). September 2001. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  11. ^ "Monitor Expedition 2003". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. July 26, 2003. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  12. ^ Casserley, T (2003). "A Ram Bow in the Keys: Latest findings from the Investigation of the Steamer Queen of Nassau". American Academy of Underwater Sciences. Archived from the original on June 6, 2012. Retrieved May 29, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. ^ Gordon, Kay (January 2007). "Lake Murray's Mitchell". Air & Space Magazine. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  14. ^ Eslinger, Kimberly Lane (2005). "And All the Men Knew the Colors of the Sea... : Historical and Archaeological Investigation of the SS Commodore's Remains, Ponce Inlet, Florida". East Carolina University. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  15. ^ Faulk, Kimberly L; Allen, Rick (September 2017). "Lights, Camera ... Shipwreck!?! Multimedia at Four Thousand Feet". Historical Archaeology. 51 (3): 418–424. doi:10.1007/s41636-017-0051-1. S2CID 164446605.
  16. ^ "Allen v Cooper, et al". Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  17. ^ Gresko, Jessica (3 June 2019). "High court will hear copyright dispute involving pirate ship". Associated Press. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  18. ^ Wolverton, Paul (2 November 2019). "Pirate ship lawsuit from Fayetteville goes to Supreme Court on Tuesday". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  19. ^ "§ 121-25. License to conduct exploration, recovery or salvage operations" (PDF). ncleg.gov. North Carolina. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  20. ^ Murphy, Brian (5 November 2019). "How Blackbeard's ship and a diver with an 'iron hand' ended up at the Supreme Court". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  21. ^ Wolf, Richard (5 November 2019). "Aarrr, matey! Supreme Court justices frown on state's public display of pirate ship's salvage operation". USA Today. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  22. ^ Livni, Ephrat (5 November 2019). "A Supreme Court piracy case involving Blackbeard proves truth is stranger than fiction". Quartz. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  23. ^ Woolverton, Paul (5 November 2019). "Supreme Court justices skeptical in Blackbeard pirate ship case from Fayetteville". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  24. ^ "N.C. Gen Stat §121-25" (PDF). NCleg.gov. North Carolina. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  25. ^ Adler, Adam (29 March 2020). "Blackbeard Just Broke Copyright Law, and Now States Are the Pirates". The Escapist. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  26. ^ Allen v. Cooper, Text.
  27. ^ McKlveen, Gina (28 October 2022). "A North Carolina Filmmaker Continues to Challenge State Sovereign Immunity". Institute of Art & Law. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  28. ^ "Reconsideration Granted" (PDF). Nautilus Productions. Retrieved 5 April 2023.
  29. ^ "4th Circuit Recon" (PDF). Nautilus Productions. Retrieved 5 April 2023.
  30. ^ "PLAINTIFFS' SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT" (PDF). IPWatchdog. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  31. ^ Barnes, Greg (14 February 2023). "Fayetteville's Blackbeard shipwreck filmmaker fires back in new court case". CityView. Retrieved 24 March 2023.

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