Monkey takes selfie

Photo via Wikimedia

This monkey probably can’t sue a photographer over a selfie, court says

'Monkey see, monkey sue will not do in federal court.'


Kris Seavers

Internet Culture

Published Jul 15, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 11:49 pm CDT

This is some monkey business.

A federal appeals court considered a lawsuit Wednesday by an Indonesian macaque named Naruto, the Los Angeles Times reported. The monkey allegedly grabbed photographer David Slater’s camera in 2011 to snap a selfie in an Indonesian forest.

Slater published the photo in a book, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued on Naruto’s behalf. The animal rights group says the photographer infringed on the monkey’s rights.

“It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement,” said Angela Dunning, an attorney for the photographer, during a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. “Naruto can’t benefit financially from his work. He is a monkey.”

Last year, a federal district judge in San Francisco said Naruto lacked standing to sue. PETA appealed.

“Had the Monkey Selfies been made by a human using Slater’s unattended camera, that human would undisputedly be declared the author and copyright owner of the photographs,” PETA argued in the appeal brief. “Nothing in the Copyright Act limits its application to human authors.”

Dunning said PETA filed the case to promote an animal rights campaign. The group was “not even sure they have the right monkey,” Dunning said.

The crux of the case is whether the federal copyright act gives animals the right to sue.

According to the Times, Judge Carlos Bea questioned whether any U.S. Supreme Court decision says “man and monkey are the same.” Judge N. Randy Smith said there was no loss to the animal’s reputation or evidence that a copyright would have benefited Naruto financially, Smith said.

“I want to know what then is the injury,” Smith said, according to the Times.

Andrew Dhuey, who represents Slater, said PETA should be required to pay the photographer’s legal fees. Slater told the Guardian he’s so broke from the lawsuit that he couldn’t afford the flight to attend the court hearing.

“Monkey see, monkey sue will not do in federal court,” Dhuey said.

Well played. The 9th Circuit could make a ruling at any time.

H/T Los Angeles Times

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*First Published: Jul 15, 2017, 6:00 am CDT