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In 2011, nature photographer David Slater trekked into the Indonesian jungle to do some work, when a crested macaque grabbed his unattended camera and snapped a selfie. The photo was darn good, so Slater later published the selfie as part of a book. The incident has since gained widespread attention, not just for the adorable photo that resulted, but over the legality of the monkey’s rights to those images—and the photographer’s right to profit from them.
Fast forward to September 2017, and the case—with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) representing the macaque, Naruto—was settled out of court. Slater agreed to donate a quarter of future revenue he makes off the monkey selfie to charities that “protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia.”
That wasn’t the end of Naruto’s legal saga, however. There was still the question of whether Naruto had legal standing with regards to the copyright of that image. On Monday, a San Francisco federal appeals court ruled that Naruto does not have legal standing to file such a copyright claim against Slater because Naruto is not a human. A federal judge originally made this decision in 2016, but PETA appealed the ruling.
As for the copyright of the images, the U.S. Copyright Office says they are not copyrightable.
In its latest decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made a slight jab at PETA over its claim to be acting on behalf of Naruto as a “friend.”
…If any such relationship exists, PETA appears to have failed to live up to the title of “friend.” After seeing the proverbial writing on the wall at oral argument, PETA and Appellees filed a motion asking this court to dismiss Naruto’s appeal and to vacate the district court’s adverse judgment, representing that PETA’s claims against Slater had been settled. It remains unclear what claims PETA purported to be “settling,” since the court was under the impression this lawsuit was about Naruto’s claims, and per PETA’s motion, Naruto was “not a party to the settlement,” nor were Naruto’s claims settled therein.
Ouch. At least this whole monkey-selfie lawsuit should finally be settled.
H/T Ars Technica
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.