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August 17, 2016

Monkey Business Coming to Ninth Circuit, Courtesy of PETA

Originally posted at FacesofLawsuitAbuse.org.

Last year’s “Most Ridiculous Lawsuit” — over the infamous “Monkey Selfies” — is still making its way through the court system.

It all started when a 6-year old crested macaque named Naruto used nature photographer David Slater’s camera to take a selfie.  Slater claimed copyright of the photo, and it was published in a 2011 book called Wildlife Personalities.

Enter: PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA filed suit in San Francisco, claiming that it is in fact the macaque Naruto, and not Slater, who owns the copyright to the photo. They also claimed that the monkey should be the financial beneficiary of all proceeds from the photo’s use.

In January, a federal judge tossed out the lawsuit, affirming the U.S. Copyright Office’s position that copyrights can only be held by human beings.

Last week, PETA officially file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In PETA’s brief, they argue that it is “high time” that rights — like copyrights and other property rights — are extended to animals “beyond just the basic necessities of food, shelter, water, and veterinary care.”

But since animals generally don’t have bank accounts and can’t speak and communicate their wishes, if the judge agrees with PETA’s argument, who would represent Naruto? Why, PETA, of course!

The animal rights group has asked the court to grant them permission to administer and protect the copyright on Naruto’s behalf. PETA wants to receive any money from the lawsuit and administer the award on behalf of the monkey. If this lawsuit works, not only has PETA found a novel new way of raising funds, but imagine all the other lawsuits it could administer on behalf of wild animals!

But before they start counting Naruto’s money, they’ll have to wait and see what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals thinks of this round of this monkey business lawsuit. 

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