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Monkey Copyrights Revisited

Monkey copyright?
Not in my court, says Orrick
PETA may appeal

As we previously reported, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that a monkey can own a copyright in its own work.

US District Court Judge William Orrick declined to grant the monkey a copyright. In fact, he declined to even consider whether the monkey should get a copyright.

David Slater, a nature photographer, visited the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011. A macaque tripped the shutter of Slater’s camera resulting in an image famously known as the “Monkey Selfie.”

Several outlets, including Wikipedia, claim that since a monkey snapped the photo, no one owns the copyright. Slater claims he has a British copyright, and that copyright should be honored around the world. PETA claims the plaintiff monkey, which they’ve given the name “Naruto,” owns the copyright.

Slater’s motion to dismiss points out:

The only pertinent fact in this case is that Plaintiff is a monkey suing for copyright infringement… imagining a monkey as the copyright ‘author’ in Title 17 of the United States Code is a farcical journey Dr. Seuss might have written.

He added:

if the humans purporting to act on Plaintiff’s behalf wish for copyright to be among the areas of law where non-human animals have standing, they should make that dubious case to Congress — not the federal courts.

The judge agreed, saying

This is an issue for Congress and the president. If they think animals should have the right of copyright they’re free, I think, under the Constitution, to do that.

Not resolved in this particular ruling is whether Slater owns the copyright, as he claims, or whether the photo is in the public domain — since it was taken by a monkey, and as demonstrated by this decision a monkey can’t hold a copyright.

PETA doesn’t seem to have given up – after the adverse ruling came out, its general counsel, Jeff Kerr, told AP that “the organization will continue fighting for the monkey’s rights.”

PETA has announced that any proceeds from licensing the monkey’s copyright would go to protect his habitat.

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