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Vancouver Aquarium Drops Copyright Lawsuit Against Filmmaker

Animal Justice March 8, 2018

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.

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The Notice of Discontinuance is available here.

For more information, contact:

Gary Charbonneau
evotioninc@gmail.com

Arden Beddoes
Arvay Finlay LLP
abeddoes@arvayfinlay.ca

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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Animal Justice Seeks Leave To Intervene In Vancouver Aquarium Appeal

Animal Justice September 28, 2016

VANCOUVER – National animal law organization Animal Justice is asking the B.C. Court of Appeal for permission to intervene in an important appeal that could affect the ability of animal advocates to do undercover investigations into animal cruelty, and to otherwise film, photograph, and expose animal abuse.

The case is an appeal of a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in a lawsuit filed by the Vancouver Aquarium against filmmaker Gary Charbonneau. Mr. Charbonneau’s film Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered criticized the Aquarium for its practice of keeping and breeding whales and dolphins in captivity. In response, the Aquarium sued Mr. Charbonneau for violation of copyright, and sought an injunction to have the film removed from the internet.

The Aquarium was partially successful in April when the judge hearing the injunction ordered that 15 segments with nearly five minutes worth of material be removed from the film. The Aquarium claimed copyright over these segments, which included material from its website and footage shot at its facility–despite well-established limits on copyright law that allow users to reproduce copyrighted material for many purposes, including criticism and news reporting.

Legal experts have called the Aquarium’s lawsuit an abuse of copyright law that improperly attempts to silence legitimate criticism and shut down robust public debate. In May, the B.C. Court of Appeal granted Mr. Charbonneau leave to appeal the injunction decision.

“Films and undercover investigation videos are powerful tools to expose hidden animal suffering and spark social and legal change,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “If the injunction decision is not overturned, animal use industries will be emboldened to launch bogus copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates and prevent them from exposing and publicizing animal abuse through undercover investigations, films, and photographs.

“This case could be Canada’s own version of “ag gag” laws–the troubling statutes passed by many U.S. states that criminalize filming animal abuse on farms.

“Animal Justice is hopeful that the court will accept our application to intervene in this crucial case so we can protect the ability to film, photograph, and expose animal suffering.”

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For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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