'Selfie' monkey Naruto can not sue for copyright, U.S. court rules

'Monkey Selfie' Appellate Ruling Finds Animals Can't File Copyright Suits

It seems that in 2011, nature photographer David Slater had setup his camera in the Indonesian forest to take pictures of a monkey named Naruto.

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. Even though the photo is brilliant and unique, it's unlikely Slater will make that much off it since he doesn't own the copyright to it; the US Copyright ruled back in 2014 that humans can not claim copyright of "works created by nature, animals or plants". A settlement was reached out of court in the case past year.

Last year, Slater and PETA had reached an apparent settlement in the dispute, with the photographer agreeing to donate 25% of his revenue from the use and sale of the images of Naruto to charities working to protect crested macaques habitats in Indonesia.

PETA "failed" as a friend to Naruto, the court said.

"While Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act", U.S. District Judge William Orrick wrote in his original ruling in 2016. The judges said PETA was using the animal as an "unwitting pawn" for their agenda.

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. Nonetheless, we conclude that this monkey - and all animals, since they are not human - lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act.

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But the appeals court refused, saying a decision in this "developing area of the law" would help guide lower courts and considerable public resources had been spent on the case.

The 9th Circuit also said refusing to dismiss the case "prevents the parties from manipulating" the precedent set by the judge.

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

The attorney added that PETA has not yet decided if it would appeal the latest ruling. It remains unclear what claims PETA purported to be "settling", since the court was under the impression this lawsuit was about Naruto's claims, and per PETA's motion, Naruto was "not a party to the settlement", nor were Naruto's claims settled therein.

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

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