Quit Monkeying Around! Judge Dismisses PETA’s Copyright Suit in Monkey Selfie Case

If Congress intended to give animals standing in the Copyright Act, “they would have done so plainly,” said California U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick III.

In 2015, photographer David Slater published a photo in which a monkey — a crested macaque, to be exact — took a picture of itself with Slater’s camera. PETA sued Slater and his publisher under the Copyright Act, arguing the primate should be “declared the author and owner of his photograph.”

However, in a preliminary ruling on January 6, 2016, Judge Orrick ruled that “while Congress and the President can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act.” Therefore, the court held the monkey did not have standing to file a lawsuit under the Act, and neither did PETA on its behalf.

PETA’s counterargument is that, in order to receive copyright protection, it does not matter what species the author is, but that there is in fact an author. PETA claims the issue in the case is that defendant Slater claimed to be the author of the photograph in publishing it, when the macaque is actually took the photograph and is thus the “author.” Nevertheless, the judge dismissed the case for lack of standing.

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