Monkey selfie suit rejected in US Federal Court

The legal battle over the viral monkey selfie is finally over.

Naruto took the selfie way back in 2011 using a camera owned by photographer David Slater when he visited Tangkoko reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The case itself kept referring to a male monkey called Naruto, while Slater maintains that the original selfie-snapping primate was a female called Ella. 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. PETA appealed and argued that the USA copyright laws do not specify that a work's creator has to be human.

"We conclude that this monkey-and all animals, since they are not human-lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act", the ruling said.

PETA sued Slater when he sold some of the photos in 2015.

When they talked settlement previous year, Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of future revenue to habitats that protect Naruto's species. In a statement, PETA's general counsel, Jeff Kerr, complained that Naruto was discriminated against because "he's a nonhuman animal".


"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, ' PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals", the court wrote.

The case was brought in a USA court because Slater's book was available for sale in the United States. Lawyers then asked the 9th Circuit to dismiss the case. A San Francisco federal appeals court ruled that the monkey does not have the ability to file a lawsuit against Slater because the monkey is not a human.

But the 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. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought the case acting as Naruto's "next friend", a legal status reserved for someone who acts in court on behalf of another who is unable to do so, usually because of a disability.

It wasn't immediately clear how or if Monday's ruling would affect the settlement. The Hollywood Reporter, the Recorder and the Associated Press have stories.


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