Court Rules in Favor of Photographer as "Monkey Selfie" Saga Ends

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The freakish legal journey began when a crested macaque monkey named Naruto took selfies using British nature photographer David Slater's camera during a 2011 trip to Indonesia.

The PETA lawsuit is not the only time in recent years that activists have sought to extend human rights to animals. The photos, captured when the monkey grabbed Slater's camera, posed and clicked, became an instant hit, appearing in newspapers, magazines, websites and on TV shows around the world. PETA then appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit.

PETA sought to drop the case entirely, but a USA appeals court made the unusual move of stepping in anyway and issuing a ruling that criticized the group for dropping the case despite having presented itself as the monkey's "next friend", a legal status normally used in court on behalf people unable to represent themselves. Slater has argued that, as the “intellect behind the photos, ” he is the copyright owner since he set up the camera so that such a photo could be produced if a monkey approached it a pressed the button.

The court also ruled photographer Slater was entitled to be compensated for attorneys' fees in the case.

Notw the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against PETA and whichever monkey it is, declaring that US copyright law does not "expressly authorise animals to file copyright infringement suits".

When the court revisited the case they outlined specific details of the definition of the "next friend standing" status PETA used to file a lawsuit against Slater. Mr Slater later argued that his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd, owned worldwide commercial rights to the photos.

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PETA appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit.

PETA reached a settlement with Slater in October, requiring him to donate 25 percent of the earnings from his book to charities "that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia", as PETA described it.

The 9th Circuit's opinion - joined by Judge Eduardo C. Robreno, with Judge N.R. Smith concurring in part - rested on three main points: whether PETA's relationship with Naruto was significant enough to allow the organization to be his next friend, whether animals can legally bring a case in federal court, and whether they have standing under the Copyright Act.

But the appeals court refused, saying a decision in this "developing area of the law" would help guide lower courts and considerable public resources had been spent on the case.

Monday's ruling will not affect the settlement, according to Kerr.

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