On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that a viral selfie of a monkey cannot be copyrighted as monkeys are not humans and their selfies cannot be protected under (human) copyright laws.
Judge Carlos Bea argued that monkeys cannot file a lawsuit against humans or companies over copyright infringement.
We conclude that this monkey — and all animals, since they are not human — lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act,
the judge wrote in his opinion.
The viral selfie shows Naruto, a crested macaque found by David Slater in a forest in Indonesia in 2011. The photographer left the camera near the monkey and the animal somehow took a selfie of itself while he was not around.
Viral Selfie of Monkey Cannot Be Protected under U.S. Law
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who sued the photographer for monetizing some of the selfies four years later, argued that Slater did not own the rights to the photos since the monkey did.
PETA even went as far as to label the photos as “original works of authorship.” The nonprofit’s first lawsuit was dismissed, with judges arguing that an animal cannot stand trial in a copyright lawsuit. The lower court also argued that allowing monkeys to sue people was “not a good law.”
PETA quickly appealed the decision, saying that the U.S. copyright laws do not state that a photo must be the work of a human. In the end, Slater and PETA settled the lawsuit, with the artist agreeing to give PETA 25% of all revenue from Naruto’s selfies. PETA pledged to use the money to protect Naruto’s home.
However, earlier this week, the 9th Circuit strongly disagreed with PETA’s reasoning. One of the judges even accused the animal rights group of taking advantage of Naruto to push for its “ideological goals.”
Image Source: PC Mag
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