Apr 25, 2018

Naruto cannot own copyright

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has handed down a decision in an infamous dispute between a photographer and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The Court has held that Naruto cannot own copyright. This is probably logical, as Naruto is a macaque monkey.

The usual rule of copyright is that the person taking a photograph is the first owner of copyright. In this case, Naruto took the picture himself using equipment set up by photographer David Slater. After the photograph went viral in 2015, PETA intervened claiming that as the money had taken the photograph itself (himself), that royalties and profits accrued from the use of the photograph should be spent on Naruto and preserving his habitat.

Slater had travelled to a remote area of the Indonesian jungle to set up equipment that would allow animals to trigger the taking of photographs of themselves without the usual observer paradox associated with close-up wildlife photography.

After PETA's intervention he somewhat surprisingly agreed to share 25% of future profits from the photograph with charities dedicated to the welfare and protection of the Crested Macaque monkey in Indonesia. When the parties attempted to have the legal proceedings dismissed, however, the court denied their motion.

The panel of judges determined that Naruto lacked standing to bring a copyright action, as animals are not authorised to file copyright infringement suits. They also held that PETA cannot reasonably argue that they have "next friend" status (similar to a litigation friend in the UK, to bring actions on behalf of those who lack capacity to do so themselves), because PETA had failed to argue that it had a significant relationship with Naruto, and because an animal cannot, as a matter of fact, have a 'next friend' at all.

PETA have since released a press statement accusing the courts of discriminating against Naruto on the basis of his non-human status.

It remains to be seen whether Slater will now voluntarily continue his profit-sharing deal with monkey conservation groups in Indonesia. His lawyer said that Slater hoped the ruling would be "beneficial to animal welfare".

We wonder whether non-human discrimination is limited to copyright law only, or if there are other (as yet unearthed) legal proceedings being decided unfairly on the basis of not being sufficiently human.

If you or your monkey have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.

in: Copyright, EU/International, News

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