Crested macaques -- and other animals -- cannot sue for copyright protection, a federal court ruled.
Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Court rules against monkey in copyright infringement case

Monkey see, monkey can’t sue.

A federal appeals court, in a unanimous decision, ruled Monday that animals cannot sue for copyright protection, The Los Angeles Times reported.

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The ruling came in the case of Naruto, a 7-year-old crested macaque living in a reserve in Indonesia. In 2011, the monkey allegedly took selfies with a wildlife photographer's camera when it was left unattended, the Times reported. Photographer David Slater later published the pictures.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued Slater in 2015, arguing the copyright belonged to Naruto. PETA and Slater later settled the case out of court, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to rule on the case.

"We must determine whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement," Judge Carlos Bea, wrote for the three-judge panel. "We conclude that this monkey — and all animals, since they are not human — lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act.”

Judge N. Randy Smith, who concurred with Bea’s opinion, said PETA's suit was "frivolous" and that federal courts lacked the authority to hear a lawsuit filed on an animal’s behalf.

"The concept of expanding actual property rights -- and rights broadly -- to animals necessitates resolving what duties also come with those rights," Smith wrote, "and, because animals cannot communicate in our language, who stands in their shoes?"

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