Published: Fri, April 27, 2018
Medical | By Mark Scott

Photographer Wins Monkey Selfie Copyright Case, Court Slams PETA

Photographer Wins Monkey Selfie Copyright Case, Court Slams PETA

This 2011 photo provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a selfie taken by a macaque monkey on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with a camera that was positioned by British nature photographer David Slater. "Naruto the macaque undeniably took the photos, and denying him 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", said PETA's General Counsel Jeff Kerr, in a statement emailed to Fox News.

An appeals court in NY a year ago rejected a case involving two chimpanzees, 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. Nevertheless, PETA apparently obtained something from the settlement with Slater, although not anything that would necessarily go to Naruto: As "part of the arrangement", Slater agreed to pay a quarter of his earnings from the monkey-selfie book "to charities that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia".

"While Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act", U.S. District Judge William Orrick wrote in his original ruling in 2016. Slater has argued that, as the “intellect behind the photos, ” he is the copyright owner since he set up the camera so that such a photo could be produced if a monkey approached it a pressed the button. Lawyers then asked the 9th Circuit to dismiss the case.

Despite the settlement, the court refused to dismiss the monkey selfie suit, saying it wanted to make a legal precedent to avoid any similar cases in the future.

In its ruling, the ninth circuit panel said that PETA had failed to meet the "significant relationship" requirement, and could not sue as Naruto's next friend.

"But now, in the wake of PETA's proposed dismissal, Naruto is left without an advocate, his supposed "friend" having abandoned Naruto's substantive claims in what appears to be an effort to prevent the publication of a decision adverse to PETA's institutional interests", the court said.

Smith adds that PETA also used Naruto as a "pawn to be manipulated on a chessboard larger than his own case".

"It is clear: PETA's real motivation, in this case, was to advance its own interests, not Naruto's". "PETA will continue working until the last barrier falls and animals' fundamental rights are recognized under the law, including their rights as creators".

The court also ruled photographer Slater was entitled to be compensated for attorneys' fees in the case.

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