UPDATE: Filmmaker ordered to edit Vancouver Aquarium documentary

FILE PHOTO: Pacific white-sided dolphin Helen interacts with her trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium. Christine Tam / Global News

UPDATE (April 4, 2016): The B.C. Supreme Court denied the Vancouver Aquarium’s application to have a documentary about it removed from the Internet but did rule that 15 short segments containing photos of the aquarium be removed from the film, pending the outcome of a copyright challenge. The footage amounts to roughly four minutes of footage and must be done within seven days. The filmmaker of the documentary considers the ruling a “win” and conversely, the Vancouver Aquarium is also pleased with the decision.

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The on-going battle between the Vancouver Aquarium and a documentary filmmaker continued in court today.

The aquarium filed a lawsuit last month alleging copyright infringement by the filmmaker of Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, whose documentary was critical of the facility’s treatment of dolphins and beluga whales.

Gary Charbonneau posted his documentary on YouTube and Vimeo but has since been removed from Vimeo.

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A notice of civil claim said Charbonneau and his company Evotion Films Inc. used images and video from the aquarium’s official website and blog without permission, and that he violated a contract allowing him to film in the facility.

The aquarium claimed general and special damages but the North Vancouver-based filmmaker said a fair-use defense would apply because he gave proper credit and used the images and video to educate the public about the facility.

The Vancouver Aquarium has come under fire in the past for breeding cetaceans in captivity. In February 2015 the death of the beluga whale named Nanuq, which was loaned by the Vancouver Aquarium to Orlando SeaWorld for breeding, renewed the debate. And then in July 2015, a baby beluga sired by a Vancouver Aquarium whale died at SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas.

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

The aquarium has disputed many of the film’s allegations and none of them have been proved in court.

Until their suit is heard, the Vancouver Aquarium’s lawyers are asking for an injunction to have the documentary removed from the Internet.

~ with files from Canadian Press

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