Monkey in 'selfie' cannot sue for
copyright, U.S. court says
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[April 24, 2018]
(Reuters) - Monkeys lack standing to
sue for copyright protection and an animal rights group cannot act as
legal guardian in such matters, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday, in
a battle over ownership of a smiling "selfie" taken by an endangered
The dispute stemmed from a famous image that Naruto, a rare crested
macaque who lives on an nature reserve, snapped using a camera that
British photographer David Slater left mounted and unattended during a
His grinning visage, which Slater published in a wildlife book, went
viral and triggered the long-running legal battle over who had the
copyright, the animal who snapped the picture or the nature photographer
who owned the camera.
"The panel held that the monkey lacked statutory standing because the
Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright
infringement suits," said the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals based in San Francisco.
Their opinion added that the group, People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA), which filed as a plaintiff on behalf of Naruto, was not
a "next friend" of the monkey in a legal sense and failed to establish
that it had a significant relationship with him.
"Denying him (Naruto) the right to sue under the U.S. Copyright Act
emphasizes what PETA has argued all along — that he is discriminated
against simply because he's a nonhuman animal," Jeff Kerr, the general
counsel to PETA, said in a statement.
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PETA had argued the monkey was the legal owner of all photos he
took. But a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in January 2016
that copyright law does not apply to animals.
A settlement was reached out of court in the case last year.
Attorneys for Naruto and Slater announced that Slater had agreed to
donate 25 percent of future revenue from the photograph to
charitable groups that protect Naruto and other members of his
species in Indonesia.
It was not clear how much the photograph has been worth to Slater,
who previously said that fewer than 100 copies of his self-published
book had been sold, despite the publicity.
The case was brought in a U.S. court because Slater's book was
available for sale in the United States.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Clarence
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