Federal Appeals Court rules that a Monkey cannot copyright his own selfies

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that a monkey cannot sue for copyright infringement over the unauthorized use of selfies that the animal snapped himself. We know you were wondering about this very thing. In the ruling, Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that "We conclude that this monkey — and all animals, since they are not human — lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act."

The back story is interesting. It seems that in 2011, nature photographer David Slater had setup his camera in the Indonesian forest to take pictures of a monkey named Naruto. Somehow, in the photographer's absence, the animal set off the camera's shutter creating what animal rights organization PETA calls a series of "selfies." PETA sued Slater when the photographer sold some of the photos of Naruto that the monkey snapped himself. PETA's argument was that Naruto took the pictures himself, creating "original works of authorship." This first suit was tossed out by the judge, who wrote in his decision, "Monkey see, monkey sue is not good law." More specifically, the court ruled that a monkey does not have standing to sue over copyright infringement.

PETA appealed and argued that the U.S. copyright laws do not specify that a work's creator has to be human. And even though both sides reached a settlement (Slater will donate 25% of future income derived from the Naruto photos to protect habitats where monkeys like Naruto live), the 9th Circuit Court felt that this was an issue so important for the future of selfie ownership, that it decided to make a ruling anyway.

The court stripped down PETA in its decision, stating in a footnote that PETA "seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals." In a statement, PETA's general counsel, Jeff Kerr, complained that Naruto was discriminated against because "he’s a nonhuman animal." Kerr added that the ruling applies only to the copyright laws and that non-human animals can still bring a case to federal court if they have "been wronged."

And now you know.

source: HuffingtonPost, CNN


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