Monkey can't own the copyright to its famous selfie, appeals court rules

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The freakish legal journey began when a crested macaque monkey named Naruto took selfies using British nature photographer David Slater's camera during a 2011 trip to Indonesia.

PETA brought a lawsuit against Slater on behalf of Naruto, claiming that his publication of the picture in a book meant that Naruto's copyright had been violated, since he and not Slater had taken the picture. The photo is part of a court exhibit in a lawsuit filed by PETA in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, which says that the monkey, and not Slater, should be declared the copyright owner of the photos.

The judge said Mr Slater is entitled to lawyers' fees and sent the case back to a district court to determine the amount.

Last year, Slater and PETA had reached an apparent settlement in the dispute, with the photographer agreeing to donate 25% of his revenue from the use and sale of the images of Naruto to charities working to protect crested macaques habitats in Indonesia. "We conclude that this monkey-and all animals, since they are not human-lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act", Bea wrote.

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The ruling added that "PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals".

In 2016, a federal judge ruled that the macaque monkey can not be declared the copyright owner of the photos. However, the Ninth Circuit denied the ensuing petition to dismiss the appeals case, setting the stage for yesterday's ruling. The 9th Circuit said it would hear the case despite the settlement. "Were he capable of recognizing this abandonment, we wonder whether Naruto might initiate an action for breach of confidential relationship against his (former) next friend, PETA, for its failure to pursue his interests before its own".

The 9th Circuit also said refusing to dismiss the case "prevents the parties from manipulating" the precedent set by the judge.

Nevertheless, PETA still found a glimmer of victory in the 9th Circuit's ruling.

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In a partial concurrence, Judge N. Randy Smith said the courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

"I so hope that wild animals are granted more and more fundamental rights in the future - like rights to dignity, survival, homeland, and their evolutionary privileges", Slater wrote in a statement posted on his Facebook page.

"I was making no money from photography, which is a hard industry to begin with", Slater, 53, said.

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