A monkey took a selfie, went to court - and loses the appeal

Monkey can't sue to copyright protect selfie, court rules

What was unusual was that the appeals court chose to rule on the case at all and the criticism it leveled at PETA in the course of doing so, questioning just what sort of "friend" the organization was to Naruto.

The court found that PETA couldn't represent Naruto as a "next friend" because it couldn't establish it had a relationship with the monkey allowing to serve as a legal guardian in a court proceeding and because current law didn't grant animals such legal representation. The majority nonetheless said the court had jurisdiction to decide the case.

A three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit held that Naruto lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act does not expressly authorise animals to file a copyright infringement suit.

In 2011, while on an assignment in Indonesia, a then seven-year-old macaque named Naruto took Slater's camera and snapped a photo of it smiling directly at it. "PETA began this case purportedly seeking not only an injunction, but also a judgment declaring Naruto to be the author and copyright owner of the Monkey Selfies with all attendant rights and privileges under law", Smith wrote. In a statement, PETA's general counsel, Jeff Kerr, complained that Naruto was discriminated against because "he's a nonhuman animal". 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. But the 9th Circuit still made a decision to rule in the important case.

"Puzzlingly, while representing to the world that 'animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way, ' " Bea wrote, "PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals".

Both judges were critical of PETA and its decision to settle the case after oral arguments suggested it would lose the appeal.

In its 2015 complaint, PETA requested that any profits derived from the photo should be spent on the monkey and preserving its habitat, as the copyright belongs to him.

In fact, the court claimed PETA essentially abandoned Naruto. Were he capable of recognizing this abandonment, we wonder whether Naruto might initiate an action for breach of confidential relationship against his (former) next friend, PETA, for its failure to pursue his interests before its own. The 9th Circuit didn't address that.

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