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Ninth Circuit: Animals Cannot Sue Humans Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

24 April 2018

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today ruled that Naruto, the Crested Macaque monkey famous for taking a selfie, cannot sue David Slater for copyright infringement. The court found that, unlike corporations, animals are not humans.

Writing for the majority, Judge Carolos T. Bea summed it up:

We must determine whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement. Our court's precedent requires us to conclude that the monkey's claim has standing under Article III of the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, we conclude that this monkey -- and all animals, since they are not human -- lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act. We therefore affirm the judgement of the district court.

Naruto had snapped the selfie when Slater left his camera unattended. Slater subsequently published the selfie in a book he published through Blurb, identifying himself and his company as the copyright owner. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals subsequently filed a complaint for copyright infringement against Slater, his company and Blurb.

A 2016 district court ruling said an animal could not own a copyright but PETA appealed saying copyright law made no such restriction. Today's decision cited the precedent of Cetacean v. Bush, which requires explicit inclusion of an animal's right to sue.

In a post on his Facebook page today, Slater said:

I thank the judges for their decision today, that comes at a legal cost of berating a previous precedent about animals having at least some Constitutional rights in the USA. My case may indeed be a catalyst at overturning a previous but limited animal rights victory that granted animals, at least, some US Constitutional respect.

The case now closed, the circus will, apparently, resume.

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