In a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III said he would dismiss a lawsuit brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on behalf of Naruto, a crested macaque monkey. PETA’s suit accused British nature photographer, David Slater, of violating Naruto’s copyright because Slater used the monkey’s selfie in a self-published book, entitled “Wildlife Personalities.” At the hearing, Judge Orrick said he doesn’t see how animals could hold a copyright or seek any of the protections provided for in the Copyright Act.
Naruto took his infamous “selfie” in 2011, using a camera that Slater left in the Indonesian nature reserve where Naruto lived. PETA claimed that by taking the photo, Naruto acquired the same authorship rights under the Copyright Act as any human would. If that’s true, it would mean that Slater violated Naruto’s copyright when Slater published the monkey’s selfie in his book, without Naruto’s permission.
PETA’s suit against Slater sought an order declaring that Naruto owns the copyright in his selfie and asked that all proceeds from Slater’s commercial use of the selfie (including proceeds from his book) be used to help macaques and preserve their habitats.
Judge Orrick disagreed with PETA and instead sided with Slater’s attorneys who filed a motion to dismiss for lack of standing and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Though Judge Orrick will issue a formal written order of dismissal at a later date, he noted at the hearing that he didn’t see any indication that animals have standing to sue under the Copyright Act.