VANCOUVER – A judge of the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that Animal Justice can intervene in an important appeal that could affect the ability of animal advocates to film, photograph, and expose animal suffering.
The case is an appeal of a decision from British Columbia’s Supreme Court in a lawsuit filed by the Vancouver Aquarium against filmmaker Gary Charbonneau. Mr. Charbonneau’s documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered criticizes the Aquarium for keeping intelligent, sentient whales and dolphins in captivity. In response, the Aquarium sued Mr. Charbonneau for alleged copyright violations, 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 five minutes of footage be removed from the film.
Legal experts have called the lawsuit an abuse of copyright law that attempts to silence legitimate free speech. In May, the Court of Appeal granted Mr. Charbonneau leave to appeal the injunction decision.
“Animal Justice is pleased that the Court of Appeal will hear our arguments in this crucial case so we can fight to protect the ability to film and expose animal suffering,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “From blockbuster films like Blackfish to secretly-recorded footage from factory farms, films and videos are powerful tools to expose hidden animal cruelty and spark social and legal change.
“The stakes in this case are incredibly high. If the injunction decision is not overturned, industries will be emboldened to launch bogus copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates and prevent them from documenting and publicizing animal abuse. This dangerous case has the potential to be Canada’s own version of ‘ag gag’ laws—the troubling U.S. statutes that criminalize filming animal abuse on farms.”
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association was also granted leave to intervene in the appeal, which is expected to be heard in January, 2017.
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