Ninth Circuit Hears Case From Monkey Appellant

Maureen Collins | July 25, 2017

On July 12, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case of Naruto v. David Slater

Naruto is a black macaque, a rare monkey found in Indonesia. I wish I were kidding. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has sued wildlife photographer David Slater into financial ruin over a "monkey selfie" taken with his camera.

In 2011, the Australian photographer came upon the extremely rare black macaques on a remote Indonesian island with the help of a tour guide. Slater took hundreds of pictures and, for fun, decided to let the monkeys hold his camera to see what they would do. The results were a blurry mess but one macaques took this self portrait:

Photo Source: Wikipedia

The photo became famous and, at first, Slater was elated. The photo was published over 50 million times and he was able to make enough money to cover his trip to Indonesia. But then, the American group PETA decided to intervene on behalf of the monkey, whose "property rights" were being violated. 

For the past six years, human Slater has lost all his savings in court battles in the United States, thanks to PETA. Slater told the Telegraph that he now wishes the photo had never happened: "Everything I did to try and highlight the plight of the monkeys has backfired on my private life. I've had my life ruined." 

In January, a district court in California ruled in favor of Slater. Now, PETA is appealing on behalf of Naruto (again, who is a literal ape) to the Ninth Circuit. 

On July 12, a panel of 3 judges at the 9th Circuit heard the case in San Francisco. Angela Dunning, one of Slater's attorneys, pointed out the obvious: "It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement. Naruto can't benefit financially for his work. He is a monkey." 

During oral arguments, David Schwarz, the attorney for PETA, and Judge N. Randy Smith (a Bush appointee), got into it over the ridiculous argument that Naruto was "injured" by the photo: 

Schwarz: But what it does say is that if the only requirement for standing or at least for injury is to be able to show that they don't want their photos exposed to the world.

Judge Smith: And you got nothing that suggests that. 

Schwarz: I think we do, your honor...

Judge Smith: What? Other than your allegation yourself?

Obviously, Smith was not buying the case that Naruto received damages from Slater's copyright of the photos. The 9th Circuit is known for making some crazy decisions but, in addition to Smith, two other Bush appointees--Judge Carlos Bea and Judge Eduardo Robreno--are hearing the case. 

Hopefully, this case is decided in favor of Slater and PETA stops wasting everyone's time with their monkey business. 

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