California Intellectual Property Blog


#PETA Files Appeal in #Monkey #Selfie Case

monkeyLos Angeles – The legal saga over a monkey selfie continues. After a judge ruled against PETA (“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”) in its copyright case, the animal rights group has recently filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The history of the case goes like this. In 2011, British nature photographer David Slater left his camera unattended. A macaque monkey named Naruto pressed the camera’s buttons and snapped a selfie. This photo was included in a book Slater sold. Later online outlets ended up using the photo claiming that since it was taken by a monkey it was public domain. PETA sued on behalf of Naruto, claiming that Naruto is the owner of the photograph since the definition of authorship in the Copyright Act is broad enough to include animals.

The U.S. Copyright Office policy, however, states, “It will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants” and includes the example of “a photograph taken by a monkey.” This policy was one of the arguments used by the judge in his ruling that copyright law does not extend to animals.

But this didn’t deter PETA. They continue to argue the definition of authorship is not explicitly limited to human created works. They argue to uphold the intent of copyright protection, which is to advance society’s interests in increasing creative output, protection should depend on the originality of the work and not the humanity of the author.

PETA points to cases where authorship is not limited to humans. An organization can be seen as the author of a work created by its employees and non-humans such as motion picture studios filed cases of ownership reaching the Supreme Court. Since non-humans already can own copyright, they argue animals should be allowed to own copyrights as well. The case could also create precedent for future cases about whether original works created by robots or artificial intelligence should be granted copyright.

With its case, PETA is seeking the rights to administer the copyright on behalf of Naruto. The organization would donate all proceeds to Naruto and the reserve where he lives.

In the event PETA wins the lawsuit, it would be the first case of an animal gaining legal rights beyond necessities such as food and shelter. In any result, it is obvious PETA is going to take this case the distance on behalf of Naruto.


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