Monkey Loses Court Fight Over Selfie Copyright to Human

Cheryl Sanders
April 27, 2018

It's been about seven years since Ella, an Indonesian macaque monkey, snapped a picture of herself with a camera belonging to David Slater.

Slater had settled the suit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals last September when he agreed to donate 25 percent of future gross revenue from the photo to charities dedicated to protecting monkey welfare and habitat in Indonesia. The appeals court also said PETA had failed to establish a significant relationship with Naruto and therefore had no grounds to legally present itself as "next friend" of the animal. After their claim was dismissed, they appealed, but subsequently reached a settlement with Slater in September past year.

In a statement, PETA's general counsel, Jeff Kerr, complained that Naruto was discriminated against because "he's a nonhuman animal".

"We conclude that this monkey-and all animals, since they are not human-lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act", the ruling said. However, the Ninth Circuit denied the ensuing petition to dismiss the appeals case, setting the stage for yesterday's ruling. Slater has argued that, as the “intellect behind the photos, ” he is the copyright owner since he set up the camera so that such a photo could be produced if a monkey approached it a pressed the button.

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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.

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

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

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.

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"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 can now, hopefully, relax a little and enjoy what I love - being with wildlife", Slater said.

The judges even went as far as accusing PETA of using the monkey as a pawn: "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, '..."

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