In 2011 an Indonesian monkey allegedly took a selfie. There ensued a battle for who owns the copyright. PETA filed suit in the Northern District Court in California stating it was an original work and the monkey, Naruto, had authorship. The wildlife photographer, John Slater, claimed ownership although he didn’t snap the picture but set-up the camera and has since been published in a book, “Wildlife Personalities.” Also involved in the mix is Wikimedia Commons who put the picture on their site claiming it was in the public domain and ineligible for copyright (per the US Copyright Office).
Back in November of 2016, was the last installment of this fascinating case. While my last post involved parts one and two of this case, following is the rest of the story.
In January of 2016 a US Court ruled that the monkey cannot own the copyright to the photographs 2016 WL 362231, US District Court N.D. California, Naruto et.al Plaintiffs v David John Slater et. al. Defendants. While the defendants motion to dismiss was granted, in July 2016, PETA filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Now, the finale – or so we think.
In April of 2018 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Naruto does not have the “statutory standing” to claim copyright infringement. PETA tried using the “next friend” status on behalf of the monkey. This principle allows person to sue in the name of another person unable to do so themselves. The panel of 3 on the Court of Appeals said it was bound by Cetacean v Bush, a case that states animals can’t sue.
An interesting side note is before this recent decision in April, an agreement between the photographer, the publisher, and PETA was reached. It stated that the photographer would donate 25% of future revenues from the monkey selfie to charities that protect wildlife of monkeys, but the Court did not accept the agreement as being a valid settlement and issued their decision 6 months later.
As it turns out, Slater may not have much to give. He states he is broke and that his life is ruined. He said he intends to sue Wikipedia for copyright infringement of his works but as of now, nothing has been filed.
Could this go to the Supreme Court? Doubtful. Sounds like PETA is not in good standing with the Courts, as the judges accused them of using Naruto to advance its own interests. Regardless of what side you may have been pulling for; look at that face and feel good that there are such beautiful creatures on this earth!
Stay tuned for any further developments.