The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is being faced with the question of whether an Indonesian crested macaque named Naruto can own the copyright to a photograph of himself which he took with a camera set up by wildlife photographer David Slater in an Indonesian forest.
In September 2015, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a request that Naruto be assigned copyright to his photos and that PETA administer any proceeds for the benefit of the monkey and the other creased macaques which reside on the same reserve. Slater and publishing house Blurb disputed this, arguing that copyright vested in Slater. In January 2016, U.S. District Judge William Orrick found Naruto lacked the standing to sue. The issue of whether an animal could own a copyright was not considered by U.S. District Judge Orrick.
On March 20 2016, PETA filed a notice of appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that under US law human ownership is not expressly required for a valid copyright to be granted. PETA also drew attention to the fact that the outcome of the case may have an impact on future cases which involve works created by sophisticated artificial intelligence. In response, Slater made clear that Naruto lacked standing and that PETA could not serve as a "next friend" to represent the macaque in court.
In July 2017, the Court of Appeals held a hearing for oral arguments relating to PETA's appeal. The Court of Appeals is not dealing with the question of whether an animal can possess a copyright. The key issue is now if PETA has standing to represent Naruto in court.
PETA has not yet responded to the oral hearing. Attorney Angela Dunning, who represents Blurb, stated that the Court of Appeals was either going to affirm U.S. District Judge Orrick's order or vacate the decision and dismiss the case on the grounds that PETA can't serve as a next friend. Whatever the outcome this is certainly an interesting dispute that raises some novel questions for the Court to consider.Posted by: in: Copyright, News