Mimesis Law
10 July 2020

Appeals Court To Hear PETA’s Monkey Selfie Case

Mar. 21, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Animal rights organization, PETA, has filed an appeal on behalf of selfie-taking monkey, Naruto, in its bizarre crusade to convince a California judge that the Indonesian macaque has rights to the copyright in his selfie photograph. To anyone with a basic knowledge of copyright law, this case is truly bananas (sorry).

Back in September, 2015, PETA filed a lawsuit in a US federal court in San Francisco against nature photographer David Slater and Blurb, Inc., the publisher of his book. PETA requested a declaration that Naruto is the copyright holder of the selfie he clicked of himself in 2011 and should receive proceeds associated with the book containing his picture. PETA thinks US copyright law doesn’t specifically exclude animals from owning copyright, so Naruto should be allowed to own the rights to it. Naturally in this scenario, PETA would be the administrator for any proceeds deriving from the photo and would use the funds for the well-being of Naruto and his environment. Which is obviously insane because, well, it’s a MONKEY we’re talking about. As Slater puts it himself in his motion to dismiss:

A monkey, an animal-rights organization and a primatologist walk into federal court to sue for infringement of the monkey’s claimed copyright. What seems like the setup for a punchline is really happening. It should not be happening.

In January, the judge unsurprisingly disagreed with PETA’s rationale and held that while Congress has the power to extend copyright to animals, there is no indication that it intended to so in the Copyright Act.

In the latest act of this absurdist play, PETA’s lawyers filed an appeal on Sunday against the lower court’s ruling, arguing that someone must own the copyright, and that Naruto the monkey, as represented by PETA, is the most evident choice. Anyone who knows anything about copyright is well aware that this is not the case. No one needs to hold copyright as a work can exist in the public domain.

The appeals court must now decide whether to uphold the previous ruling or set a ridiculous precedent establishing personhood for animals.

Main image almost definitely via David Slater/Wikimedia Commons

4 Comments on this post.

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  • Jeff Gamso
    21 March 2016 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    On what basis (I’ve been wondering this for a while but never bothered to investigate) does PETA claim to be the agent/conservator/whatever for the monkey? Surely the monkey hasn’t authorized PETA to act for it.

    • shg
      21 March 2016 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Surely? Just because the monkey can’t write, you say “surely”? Maybe the monkey just told PETA so, but that means nothing to you because you’re an ableist shitlord who hates monkeys just because they can’t write.

      • Jeff Gamso
        21 March 2016 at 10:07 pm - Reply

        I confess to being species chauvanistic, personist. I’ll support any candidate who’ll build a wall to keep non-peoples where they came from. And that damn monkey will pay for it, I tell you!

        I want that agency contract in writing.

  • Scott Jacobs
    22 March 2016 at 9:35 am - Reply

    To anyone with a basic knowledge of copyright law, this case is truly bananas (sorry).

    This is why we can’t have nice things.