‘Monkey Selfie’ Copyright Battle FinallyQuestions PETA’s Intentions
Naruto—a macque residing in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi—is one of the most famous monkey personalities in the world, not just because it took its own selfie using an unattended camera, but because it sparked a three-year-long legal battle.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) took issue with who owned the rights to the photo. Acting as Naruto’s “best friend,” it initially asked photographer David J. Slater—who owned the camera that the monkey used, as well as published Naruto’s series of selfies in a book—to donate 25% of the profits made from the book to organizations “that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia.”
Slater acceded to PETA’s request in October 2017, but the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overruled the decision on Monday.
The monkey business finally came to a close, as the three-judge panel announced PETA “failed” as its role of a “friend” to the animal, since it “abandoned” the case after reaching a settlement that was not directly helpful to Naruto. Rather, it served to benefit the charity.
“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,’ PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals,” the court explained.
“We feel compelled to note that PETA’s deficiencies in this regard go beyond its failure to plead a significant relationship with Naruto. Indeed, if any such relationship exists, PETA appears to have failed to live up to the title of ‘friend.’”
As to whether monkeys can sue, the Ninth Circuit referenced a previous case involving whales, arguing that animals may have the right to bring a case to federal court, but are not protected by the Copyright Act. Thus, “best friend” PETA was not allowed to sue on Naruto’s behalf.
PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr said in a statement, “Today, the court reaffirmed that nonhuman animals have the constitutional right to bring a case to federal court when they’ve been wronged.”
“But the opinion still missed the point, which was that Naruto the macaque undeniably took the photos, and denying him the right to sue under the US Copyright Act emphasizes what PETA has argued all along—that he is discriminated against simply because he’s a nonhuman animal.”
[via The Washington Post, images via various sources]