Monkey Can't Sue For Selfie Copyright, Court Rules

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This 2011 photo provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a selfie taken by a macaque monkey on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with a camera that was positioned by British nature photographer David Slater.

Another member of the panel, Judge N. Randy Smith, added a partially concurring opinion, arguing that the case should be dismissed because "next friend" status - the legal relationship PETA claimed to Naruto in its lawsuit on the monkey's behalf - can not apply to animals.

In its 2015 complaint, PETA requested that any profits derived from the photo should be spent on the monkey and preserving its habitat, as the copyright belongs to him.

An appeals court in NY a year ago rejected a case involving two chimpanzees, saying there was no legal precedent for the animals being considered people, and their cognitive capabilities didn't mean they could be held legally accountable for their actions.

Slater and PETA announced in September they reached a settlement, under which Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of any future revenue from the images to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia.


However, the appeals court ruling questioned PETA's assertion that the organization is a guardian or "next friend" of Naruto.

"We conclude that this monkey-and all animals, since they are not human-lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act", the ruling said.

We feel compelled to note that PETA's deficiencies in this regard go far beyond its failure to plead a significant relationship with Naruto.

"Puzzlingly, while representing to the world that 'animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way, ' PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals", the court wrote.

In 2016, a federal judge ruled that the macaque monkey can not be declared the copyright owner of the photos. A San Francisco federal appeals court ruled that the monkey does not have the ability to file a lawsuit against Slater because the monkey is not a human. However, the Ninth Circuit denied the ensuing petition to dismiss the appeals case, setting the stage for yesterday's ruling.


During oral arguments in the case, the ninth circuit judges focused on the withdrawal from the case of Naruto's "next friend", Dr Antje Engelhardt, who was said to have had a "significant relationship" with Naruto.

"It is clear: PETA's real motivation, in this case, was to advance its own interests, not Naruto's".

"It remains unclear what claims PETA purported to be 'settling, ' since the court was under the impression this lawsuit was about Naruto's claims".

"I was making no money from photography, which is a hard industry to begin with", Slater, 53, said.


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