PETA insists that the book with photographs the simian took of itself infringed upon the animal’s right of ownership.
This playful monkey with a surprisingly human smile and some serious selfie skills took the spotlight Wednesday as a federal appeals court entertained a debate as to whether an animal could hold a copyright for these selfie photos. Photographer David Slater included the photo in a book. An animal rights group sued on behalf of Naruto, contending the photographer infringed on the monkey’s rights.
During a hearing, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals considered a lawsuit by an Indonesian macaque named Naruto. The animal allegedly grabbed a photographer’s camera in 2011 and snapped a self-portrait. The court appeared to be doubting the validity of the claim that a monkey had proceeded with to sue for copyright protection.
“It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement,” Angela Dunning, an attorney for the photographer, told the court during a hearing in San Francisco. “Naruto can’t benefit financially from his work. He is a monkey.”
Jeffrey Kerr, general counsel to PETA, speaks to reporters outside of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, on Wednesday. PETA sought a court order in 2015 allowing it to administer all proceeds from the photos to benefit the monkey.
“We have to look at the word ‘authorship’ in the broadest sense,” he said.
The judges grilled him on why PETA has status to represent Naruto and said that “having genuine care for the animal” isn’t enough to establish “next friend” relationship, which is required to represent the monkey in court.
The judges did not issue a ruling Wednesday.