Monkey can't sue over selfie


PETA's 2015 suit against wildlife photographer David Slater sought financial control of the photographs _ including a now-famous selfie of the monkey grinning _ for the benefit of the animal named Naruto. "PETA began this case purportedly seeking not only an injunction, but also a judgment declaring Naruto to be the author and copyright owner of the Monkey Selfies with all attendant rights and privileges under law", Smith wrote. The judge said the law reserved that power only for humans.

The judges involved in the case concluded that "next friends" can not represent animals and the lawsuit was thrown out of court.

The weird legal journey began when a crested macaque monkey named Naruto took selfies using British nature photographer David Slater's camera during a 2011 trip to Indonesia. Nonetheless, we conclude that this monkey - and all animals, since they are not human - lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act.

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

The 53-year-old photographer declined to say how much revenue he had made from the image, but claimed it had been "embarrassingly low".

In January 2016 a San Francisco Judge ruled that an animal can not claim copyrights for images.

Steven Wise, an attorney for the group, Nonhuman Rights Project, has argued in state courts that elephants and chimpanzees should be treated legally as people with a right to liberty.

PETA said that, while the court reaffirmed that animals have the constitutional right to bring a case to federal court when they've been wronged, the opinion missed the point. While a settlement might sound like a good thing when it comes to lawsuits, Judge Smith believes PETA settled before the Court of Appeals could hand down its verdict to protect itself from a "possible negative, precedential ruling".

Naruto snapped the photos while Mr Slater was on a trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011. However, the Ninth Circuit denied the ensuing petition to dismiss the appeals case, setting the stage for yesterday's ruling.

The judges said a decision in this "developing area of the law" would be useful to guide lower courts in the future.

In its ruling, the ninth circuit panel said that PETA had failed to meet the "significant relationship" requirement, and could not sue as Naruto's next friend.