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$14 million dispute over Blackbeard pirate ship goes to mediation

 A $14 million legal dispute between a treasure-hunting company and the state over access and media rights to Blackbeard's pirate ship has been sent to mediation. The case is pending with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, and as of last week was referred to outside mediation. If the mediation fails, the case returns to the Administrative Hearings office for a hearing before an administrative law judge. Intersal Inc. of Florida, which discovered the wreck of Queen Anne's Revenge off the North Carolina coast in 1996, says in a petition filed March 2 that the state has

violated the terms of a contract it signed with the company in 2013.

The contract covers many issues related to the ship and the relationship between Intersal and the state.

The issues include rights related to video and photography made of the wreck and the recovery, study and reproduction of its artifacts.

North Carolina breached the 2013 contract within days of its signing, Intersal says, and has continued to violate the terms repeatedly since by improperly publishing or improperly permitting the publication of photos and video of the wreck and its artifacts.

In a response filed in April, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources denies Intersal's allegations. It says the claims have no merit.

Wrecks in state waters, such as Blackbeard's ship, belong to the state, even if they are undiscovered.

The ship ran aground in the early 1700s and its remains lie in shallow water about a mile offshore.

Researchers have been excavating it since the late 1990s and have recovered anchors, cannons and other items.

Normally, when shipwreck-hunting companies such as Intersal that find such wrecks, the companies and the state split any treasures found.

But researchers believed that most, if not all, of the valuables on board Queen Anne's Revenge were removed before the ship went under. So in 1998 Intersal made a 15-year deal with the state for exclusive media rights.

A new deal was made in 2013 to resolve a dispute over renewal of the 1998 contract.

 

By Paul Woolverton, Staff writer
May, 2015

TESTIMONIALS

Connie Theron, Practising Attorney - UCT Law Clinic
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