Monkey in 'selfie' can not sue for copyright, USA court says

The answer, just to relieve any suspense, was no, monkeys can't own copyrights or bring copyright infringement suits, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Monday, upholding a lower court.

The ruling marks the latest chapter in a long-running legal dispute over the images, which include a selfie of the smiling monkey that went viral.

The case involved a series of heart-melting snaps of Naruto, a grinning crested macaque, in 2011.

We feel compelled to note that PETA's deficiencies in this regard go far beyond its failure to plead a significant relationship with Naruto.

When the court revisited the case they outlined specific details of the definition of the "next friend standing" status PETA used to file a lawsuit against Slater. 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". In any event, the law does not permit animals to be represented by a next friend, he said.

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When they talked settlement previous year, Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of future revenue to habitats that protect Naruto's species. They're not the only one to contest the ownership of the photo (*cough*Wikimedia*cough*), but the legal battles got to the point where Slater was considering "packing it all in".

"Puzzlingly, while representing to the world that 'animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way, '" court said, "PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals". U.S. District Judge William Orrick III of the Northern District of California ruled in 2016 that animals have no standing to assert copyright authorship under Ninth Circuit law.

The case was brought in a USA court because Slater's book was available for sale in the United States. 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". Orrick ruled a year ago that, under Ninth Circuit case law, animals do not have legal standing to bring lawsuits unless expressly provided for by statute.

Fox News' Bill Mears and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

  • Adam Floyd