Monkey Can't Sue For Selfie Copyright, Court Rules

'Monkey Selfie' Appellate Ruling Finds Animals Can't File Copyright Suits

'Monkey Selfie' Appellate Ruling Finds Animals Can't File Copyright Suits

In 2011, while on an assignment in Indonesia, a then seven-year-old macaque named Naruto took Slater's camera and snapped a photo of it smiling directly at it.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued Slater in 2015 seeking financial control of the photos to benefit the monkey. After their claim was dismissed, they appealed, but subsequently reached a settlement with Slater in September a year ago. Nevertheless, PETA apparently obtained something from the settlement with Slater, although not anything that would necessarily go to Naruto: As "part of the arrangement", Slater agreed to pay a quarter of his earnings from the monkey-selfie book "to charities that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia".

"We believe the court's decision discriminates against him, simply because he is not human", said PETA Attorney Jeff Kerr.

"The Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits under the statute", Judge Carlos T. Bea wrote in the three-judge panel's opinion. "We gravely doubt that PETA can validly assert "next friend" status to represent claims made for the monkey", it said, in its ruling.

The court stripped down PETA in its decision, stating in a footnote that PETA "seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals".

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In a rare move, the appeals' court refused to accept the lawyers' demand to throw out the case. Nonetheless, we conclude that this monkey - and all animals, since they are not human - lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act. What was unusual was that the appeals court chose to rule on the case at all and the criticism it leveled at PETA in the course of doing so, questioning just what sort of "friend" the organization was to 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, and per PETA's motion, Naruto was "not a party to the settlement", nor were Naruto's claims settled therein. Because PETA clearly don't have better things to do in their crusade for "animal rights".

The court has also ruled Slater is entitled to compensation for his legal feels, with the district court now working out how much he should get.

PETA appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit.

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