Why Naruto the monkey lost selfie copy right case

27 April, 2018, 01:10 | Author: Judith Dennis
  • The court ruled that Slater was entitled to attorneys fees in the case and sent it back to the district court to determine the amount

The freaky 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.

The March 23 ruling is expected to draw a line under a protracted legal battle between the British photographer and the animal rights group PETA, which filed a suit on behalf of Naruto the monkey. The photographer self-published a book including the image in 2015 - which PETA says was a violation of the monkey's copyright. To make matters worse, PETA didn't seem to have a lot invested in the case, since Slater pointed out they mixed up the monkeys. As part of the settlement, 25% of future proceeds from "any or all of the monkey selfies" will be donated to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia.

"We believe the court's decision discriminates against him, simply because he is not human", said PETA Attorney Jeff Kerr. This first suit was tossed out by the judge, who wrote in his decision, "Monkey see, monkey sue is not good law".

The absence of a next friend doesn't necessarily doom Naruto's lawsuit, the 9th Circuit held, so it went on to address the merits of the case.

The case settled after the parties argued before the 9th Circuit last July, but the appeals court decided it would rule on the matter anyway.

As Courthouse News points out, the three-judge panel's opinion does not address some of the case's potentially more far-reaching issues, such as whether or not a human can own copyrights of images made by animals or machines.

The 9th Circuit didn't appear to buy the fact that PETA filed its motion to dismiss Naruto's appeal because the settlement was reached. "Were he capable of recognizing this abandonment, we wonder whether Naruto might initiate a breach of confidential relationship against his (former) next friend, PETA, for its failure to pursue his interests before its own".

"It remains unclear what claims PETA purported to be 'settling, ' since the court was under the impression this lawsuit was about Naruto's claims".

In a partial concurrence, Judge N. Randy Smith said the courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

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

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

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


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