Court Deals Serious Blow to Monkey Rights

PETA sued to secure a macaque's rights to its selfies
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2018 7:00 PM CDT
Jeffrey Kerr, general counsel to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), speaks to reporters outside of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

(Newser) – A US appeals court on Monday favored humans over animals in a novel copyright lawsuit filed over a series of entertaining selfies taken by a monkey with a toothy grin. US copyright law does not allow lawsuits that seek to give animals the rights to photographs or other original work, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. Copyright infringement can only be claimed on behalf of humans, the court said. Per the AP, the unanimous, three-judge panel upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed the lawsuit by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against a photographer whose camera was used by a crested macaque to take the photos in 2011. PETA's 2015 suit against David Slater sought financial control of the photographs—including a now-famous selfie of the monkey grinning—for the benefit of the animal named Naruto.

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said the group was reviewing the opinion and had not decided yet whether it would appeal. "Naruto should be considered the author and copyright owner, and he shouldn't be treated any differently from any other creator simply because he happens to not be human," Kerr said. The problem for Naruto, however, was that copyright law did not "expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits," Ninth Circuit Judge Carlos Bea said in the ruling. The judge said the law reserved that power only for humans. The court ruled that Slater was entitled to attorneys' fees in the case and sent it back to the district court to determine the amount. Slater, who lives in the United Kingdom, said the attorneys' fees were welcome after the case took a toll financially and emotionally and at one point had him contemplating taking up dog walking or tennis coaching to make money.

(Read more monkey stories.)

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