Judge orders edit of documentary criticizing Vancouver Aquarium

Filmmaker must remove about five minutes of footage

VANCOUVER — A B.C. filmmaker says he expects to get more attention after a judge ordered him to edit out segments of a documentary that criticizes the Vancouver Aquarium.

Gary Charbonneau was instructed Monday to remove just under five minutes of video from his hour-long film “Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered” within seven days. The film examines the facility’s treatment of dolphins and beluga whales.

Judge Jeanne Watchuk of the B.C. Supreme Court granted the aquarium an injunction after it filed a notice of civil claim in February against the filmmaker and his company, Evotion Films Inc.

The aquarium alleges that Charbonneau used images and video from its website and blog without permission. It also argues he violated a contract allowing him to film at the facility.

Charbonneau contends the material is covered by the fair dealing provision of the Copyright Act. He said he gave proper credit and used the material to educate the public.

Watchuk said the issues are for a trial judge to decide.

“In granting this order, I am mindful of the inconvenience to the defendants to excise the contentious segments,” Watchuk said. “However, it is the preferred course to maintain the status quo pending trial.”

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre said in a statement it’s pleased with the decision. The centre said it’s seeking to protect copyrighted materials developed to raise awareness about ocean conservation.

“We feel strongly that the conservation, research and education programs we lead need to be fairly represented and protected from those who choose to deliberately make false claims,” said the statement.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

Charbonneau called the decision an “enormous victory,” noting the aquarium sought the removal of the entire film from public websites, including YouTube and the filmmaker’s personal site.

He said the film will stand even with the ordered edits.

“All the facts are there about the aquarium,” he said outside court. “A lot of the other stuff was filler.”

The documentary alleges that belugas kept in captivity have a much higher infant death rate than those in the wild. It also claims the aquarium is buying dolphins from Japan under the pretense of a rescue and rehabilitation program.

In a blog post it has previously published, the aquarium disputes many of the film’s allegations.

The post attributes the deaths of four beluga calves over four decades to unrelated and unpreventable causes. It also says that the two dolphins that arrived at the facility in 2005 from Japan were rescued after getting badly injured in fixed fishing nets.

Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

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