VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Aquarium has dropped its copyright lawsuit against filmmaker Gary Charbonneau. The Aquarium filed a notice of discontinuance in the case this week, shortly before CEO John Nightingale was set to be cross-examined by counsel for Mr. Charbonneau.
The Aquarium first filed the copyright infringement lawsuit against Mr. Charbonneau in 2016 over his documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which exposed the Aquarium’s cruel practice of confining sentient whales and dolphins in concrete tanks. The lawsuit was deemed a misuse of copyright law by legal experts, designed to suppress public criticism and debate through the court process.
The Aquarium sought to have the entire documentary removed from the internet, and was successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction ordering that certain segments be removed. On appeal, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned that injunction, emphasizing the importance of Mr. Charbonneau’s freedom of expression.
Animal Justice intervened in the appeal to express concerns that the case could negatively affect the ability of animal advocates to film, expose, and publicize animal cruelty issues across Canada, emboldening secretive animal use industries to file illegitimate copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates. This could prevent them from investigating, documenting, and exposing hidden animal cruelty.
“I am delighted this frivolous lawsuit has finally been dropped,” said Mr. Charbonneau. “However, I remain troubled by the Aquarium’s aggressive litigation strategy, and I am concerned they will continue to fight losing legal battles at the expense of conservation and rescue.”
“We are glad the Aquarium has finally determined to drop its unmeritorious lawsuit and let the documentary speak for itself, so that Canadians can make their own judgments about the ethics of the Aquarium’s practices,” said Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, counsel to Mr. Charbonneau.
“This lawsuit had disturbing implications for those who investigate, document, and expose animal cruelty,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “The writing is on the wall for the cruel captivity industry, as the public no longer supports keeping sentient animals confined for entertainment.”
The Aquarium also sought judicial review of the Vancouver Park Board’s bylaw banning them from keeping whales and dolphins in Stanley Park. The bylaw was overturned last month, but the Park Board is appealing to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
The Notice of Discontinuance is available here.
For more information, contact:
Arvay Finlay LLP
Executive Director, Animal Justice