Court Rules in Favor of Photographer as "Monkey Selfie" Saga Ends

27 April, 2018, 01:14 | Author: Joshua Bennett
  • The court ruled that Slater was entitled to attorneys fees in the case and sent it back to the district court to determine the amount

The case began in 2011 when the crested macaque monkey approached a camera Slater had set up on the forested Indonesian island of Sulawesi and managed to press the button, taking a picture of himself with what appeared to be a broad grin on his face.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) had argued that the monkey was the legal owner of all photos he took.

In its 2015 complaint, PETA requested that any profits derived from the photo should be spent on the monkey and preserving its habitat, as the copyright belongs to him. A settlement was reached out of court in the case a year ago.

It was not clear how much the photograph has been worth to Slater, who previously said that fewer than 100 copies of his self-published book had been sold, despite the publicity.

"We must determine whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement", writes Circuit Judge Carlos Bea in the opinion issued Monday. PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals.

They asked the 9th Circuit to dismiss the case and throw out Orrick's decision. "We gravely doubt that PETA can validly assert "next friend" status to represent claims made for the monkey", it said, in its ruling.


In a separate opinion in the selfie case, 9th Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith called PETA's lawsuit "frivolous" and said he would not have ruled on the merits of the copyright claim, but instead would have dismissed the case on other grounds.

Both judges were critical of PETA and its decision to settle the case after oral arguments suggested it would lose the appeal.

A court case out of California is bananas! It remains unclear what claims PETA purported to be "settling", since the court was under the impression this lawsuit was about Naruto's claims, and per PETA's motion, Naruto was "not a party to the settlement", nor were Naruto's claims settled therein. "Were he capable of recognizing this abandonment, we wonder whether Naruto might initiate a breach of confidential relationship against his (former) next friend, PETA, for its failure to pursue his interests before its own".

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

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

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