US Court of Appeals Rules Monkeys Can't Sue for Copyright, Because This is an Argument That Still Needs to be Had

By Tom Pritchard on at

It's been about seven years since Ella, an Indonesian macaque monkey, snapped a picture of herself with a camera belonging to David Slater. And since then Slater has had to spend a very large chunk of his time in court, because PETA decided it would be a great idea to sue and fight on behalf of the monkey so it will own the copyright. Because PETA clearly don't have better things to do in their crusade for 'animal rights'. But PETA suffered another blow because the US Court of Appeals has affirmed a 2016 ruling that said monkeys aren't allowed to sue for copyright.

But back to the story. Ever since 2015 Slater has been in a battle with PETA who clearly think they're on some sort of moral crusade to stop people from depriving this poor monkey of royalties. They're not the only one to contest the ownership of the photo (*cough*Wikimedia*cough*), but the legal battles got to the point where Slater was considering "packing it all in". To make matters worse, PETA didn't seem to have a lot invested in the case, since Slater pointed out they mixed up the monkeys. The case itself kept referring to a male monkey called Naruto, while Slater maintains that the original selfie-snapping primate was a female called Ella.

Seriously PETA has been trying to fight to grant copyright to a monkey that wasn't even in the photo.

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". Basically monkeys aren't allowed to sue people for copyright in the USA. Judge N Randy Smith also referred to PETA's lawsuit as "frivolous", and noted that PETA doesn't seem to have any sort of relationship with the monkey it claims to be fighting on behalf of. Though this is all despite the fact that PETA supposedly settled in September, after Slater agreed to donate 25 per cent of the money generated by the photo to help protect crested macaques - whatever they might be called.

The court has also ruled Slater is entitled to compensation for his legal feels, with the district court currently working out how much he should get. Unfortunately the US Copyright Office has declared he can't own the photograph because it was taken by a monkey. Slater does, however, sell prints of the infamous photograph on his website, if you want to buy one for yourself.

But PETA being PETA is appealing against this ruling, telling the Wall Street Journal that its not happy the monkey is being discriminated against because it's not human. I mean, sure! Why can't we treat all animals like people, and give them the right to sue when they don't understand what courts, compensation, or lawyers are? It's even more stupid considering they got the monkeys mixed up.

I don't want to live on this planet anymore. [Sky News | Ars Technica]