SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – Naruto, a crested macaque monkey, is not entitled to copyright of pictures the animal snapped of himself, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The April 23 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit should end a case initially taken up by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against a British nature photographer.
The monkey took the so-called "selfies" using the camera of photographer, David Slater, who later published a book that included the images.
PETA, claiming to be Naruto's next friend, sued the photographer in 2015, asserting the monkey has copyright over the images.
The two parties had agreed to settle, with Slater promising to pay 25 percent of all proceeds from the images to the Tangkoko nature reserve in Indonesia where Naruto resides. Both asked that the appeal be dismissed and the district court judgment vacated.
In its ruling April 13 that denied the request, the appeals court stated that "denying the motion to dismiss and declining to vacate the lower court judgment prevents the parties from manipulating precedent in a way that suits their institutional preferences."
In a brief arguing against the move to settle and vacate, the Competitive Enterprise Institute said the district court order should remain to "deter PETA and other groups from using the Copyright Act as an ideological weapon to generate publicity and impose legal costs on innocent copyright holders."
"Incredibly, PETA now represents that it entered into settlement with the defendants alone — without Naruto," the CEI, which describes itself as a libertarian think tank, stated in its brief.
The think tank noted that the parties claimed to have resolved all disputes "arising out of this litigation as between PETA and defendants.”
"This statement makes no sense," it stated. "PETA did not have claims against the defendants. PETA argued repeatedly it was a next friend, a nominal party... (A)ll claims arising out of this litigation belong to the sole plaintiff, Naruto."