Selfie monkey Naruto can not sue for copyright, court rules

Lynn Cook
April 27, 2018

This case dates back to 2011 when British nature photographer was on a shoot in the Tangkoko reserve in Indonesia, and a crested macaque monkey named Naruto got hold of his camera and started snapping pictures of itself.

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. After their claim was dismissed, they appealed, but subsequently reached a settlement with Slater in September previous year.

When they talked settlement previous year, Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of future revenue to habitats that protect Naruto's species.

It was not clear how much the photograph has been worth to Slater, who previously said that fewer than 100 copies of his self-published book had been sold, despite the publicity.

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

"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. After seeing the proverbial writing on the wall at oral argument, PETA and Appellees filed a motion asking this court to dismiss Naruto's appeal and to vacate the district court's adverse judgment, representing that PETA's claims against Slater had been settled.

Monday's ruling will not affect the settlement, according to Kerr.

Smith asserted that "PETA brought a frivolous lawsuit here".

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Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith concurred in part, but wrote a lengthy dissent centering on why next friend standing is a jurisdictional issue and arguing that federal courts didn't have jurisdiction to hear the case and the appeal should have been dismissed. "Were he capable of recognizing this abandonment, we wonder whether Naruto might initiate an action for breach of confidential relationship against his (former) next friend, PETA, for its failure to pursue his interests before its own".

Slater, in an email to The Washington Post, said he was "thoroughly delighted" with the outcome of the case and that attorneys' fees were granted.

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

The animal rights group is appealing against the latest ruling.

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Nevertheless, PETA still found a glimmer of victory in the 9th Circuit's ruling.

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