Photographer Wins Monkey Selfie Copyright Case, Court Slams PETA

Posted April 25, 2018

The seven-year-old crested macaque took the selfies after photographer David Slater left his camera unattended while visiting a reserve in Indonesia in 2011.

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 monkey is Naruto who took these selfies with wildlife photographer David Slater's camera. 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.

An appeals court in NY previous year rejected the chimpanzee case, saying there was no legal precedent for the animals being considered people, and their cognitive capabilities didn't mean they could be held legally accountable for their actions. PETA appealed and argued that the US copyright laws do not specify that a work's creator has to be human. The settlement, the court argued, could not have benefited Naruto since he was not a party to the settlement and, when it came down to it, Naruto still didn't own the copyright to profit from his newfound selfie fame.

According to Jeff Kera, PETA's general counsel, the court reaffirmed that animals have the constitutional right to bring a case, but the "opinion still missed the point".

The ruling added that "PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals".

The case was brought in a US court because Slater's book was available for sale in the United States.

But PETA being PETA is appealing against this ruling, telling the Wall Street Journal that its not happy the monkey is being discriminated against because it's not human. As part of the settlement, 25% of future proceeds from "any or all of the monkey selfies" will be donated to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia. Lawyers then asked the 9th Circuit to dismiss the case.

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.

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 Hollywood Reporter, the Recorder and the Associated Press have stories.