WHAT? Ninth Circuit to Decide Whether a Monkey Has Copyright Claims to a Selfie


Published July 13, 2017


Animals do not have standing in federal court


On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the following question: Does a Celebes crested macaque hold copyright to a selfie? Celebes crested macaques are a critically endangered species of Old World monkey originally from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

In 2011, British nature photographer David Slater did an experiment to see if the macaques could operate the camera. A female macaque named Naruto took many photographs, including a selfie that was the subject of the current litigation. Since the monkey took the photograph's on Slater's camera, the photographer took the images as his own and claimed he possessed the copyright.

That did not suit well many radical environmentalists, particularly with the radicals from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In September 2015, PETA filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court of the Northern District of California claiming that United States Copyright law does not preclude animals from owning rights to property. Namely, Naruto should own the rights to the selfies it took. The case was dismissed in January 2016 by Judge William Orrick, correctly stating that animals do not have standing in court. Orrick, who is also a known Democratic fundraiser, quoted a 2004 Ninth Circuit case, elaborating: