Monkey who took selfie can not sue for copyright, court rules

The selfie was taken by a solo crested macaque whereas this group posed for a professional

The selfie was taken by a solo crested macaque whereas this group posed for a professional

Here's a snapshot of how this monkey business ended up in a federal appellate court: In 2011, photographer David Slater set up his camera in an Indonesian forest, and Naruto, a crested macaque, snapped some photos of himself. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought the case acting as Naruto's "next friend", a legal status reserved for someone who acts in court on behalf of another who is unable to do so, usually because of a disability.

The court found that PETA couldn't represent Naruto as a "next friend" because it couldn't establish it had a relationship with the monkey allowing to serve as a legal guardian in a court proceeding and because current law didn't grant animals such legal representation.

The court ruled that Slater was entitled to attorneys' fees in the case and sent it back to the district court to determine the amount. Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of gross revenue from the selling of the monkey selfies to charities advocating for the welfare and protection of the habitat of crested macaques.

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

Worse, the court said in a lengthy footnote: "We feel compelled to note that PETA's deficiencies in this regard go beyond its failure to plead a significant relationship with Naruto".

In a separate opinion in the selfie case, 9th Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith called PETA's lawsuit "frivolous" and said he would not have ruled on the merits of the copyright claim, but instead would have dismissed the case on other grounds.

As Courthouse News points out, the three-judge panel's opinion does not address some of the case's potentially more far-reaching issues, such as whether or not a human can own copyrights of images made by animals or machines.

"But now, in the wake of PETA's proposed dismissal, Naruto is left without an advocate, his supposed "friend" having abandoned Naruto's substantive claims in what appears to be an effort to prevent the publication of a decision adverse to PETA's institutional interests", the court said.

At the same time, Kerr said the decision would not affect the settlement.

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

Smith adds that PETA also used Naruto as a "pawn to be manipulated on a chessboard larger than his own case".

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