Vancouver Aquarium Files Lawsuit Against Documentary Filmmaker

Vancouver Aquarium has filed a lawsuit against Gary Charbonneau, the filmmaker behind Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which exposed cruelty and corruption at the aquarium. The notice of claim can be viewed here.

The lawsuit is for copyright violation. Essentially, Vancouver Aquarium is saying that Mr. Charbonneau used footage from their website, and claims that this is a violation of copyright law, and a breach of the “terms of use” posted on their website. The aquarium is also taking issue with the video being posted online. Even just filing the lawsuit gives the aquarium grounds to have the video removed from Vimeo.

The Copyright Act allows people to use copyrighted material under certain circumstances, such as for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire, or for criticism or review if certain conditions are met.

The lawsuit does not allege defamation, which is a common cause of action in a case like this. In other words, Vancouver Aquarium’s lawsuit does not take issue with any of the specific claims in the documentary. Rather, they are only taking issue with the filmmaker’s use of their footage.

Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered documented many problems, including:

  • out of ten orca, beluga, and dolphin births, only one animal–a beluga–survived infancy. This 90 percent infant mortality rate is at least four times that found in nature.
  • public claims not to have a breeding program are contradicted by the aquarium’s quietly moving their belugas around for breeding purposes.
  • the Vancouver Aquarium assisted the Georgia Aquarium to import belugas hunted in Russia, despite publicly denouncing wild capture.
  • despite claiming to be dedicated to conservation, research and education, the budget percentage allocated to these items dropped from 22.6 percent in 2004 to 12 percent in 2013.
  • there is no evidence that any so-called research at the Vancouver Aquarium has aided a single wild cetacean.
  • the president of the accrediting association, CAZA, is also the vice president of the Vancouver Aquarium. The aquarium is effectively accrediting itself.
  • contrary to claims made by aquarium officials, not a single cetacean death at the aquarium could be considered to be from a “natural cause.”

Mr. Charbonneau plans to fight the lawsuit.

This blog and the contents herein are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to seek legal counsel prior to acting on any matters discussed herein. The opinions expressed are those of the author.