PETA Defends Its Rights To Represent The Selfie-Taking Monkey In Court

from the that's-a-silly-question dept

We’ve written plenty about the infamous monkey selfie, and have even been threatened by two totally separate organizations for posting the photo here on Techdirt (which we’re about to do again):

Last week, the story got even weirder, where PETA, the animal rights organization, sued photographer David Slater on behalf of the monkey, who they claim is named Naruto. As we’ve explained in detail, the photos are almost certainly in the public domain based on all relevant copyright laws. Slater has repeatedly denied this, insisting the copyright is his (and he apparently also likes to regularly disparage Techdirt’s coverage of this story). But, still, we’re at least on Slater’s side in this particular lawsuit. PETA has much less of a claim to the copyright than Slater does (and, as we’ve noted, Slater has none).

Sarah Jeong, over at Vice’s Motherboard, likes to dig deep into wacky copyright stories, and this was no exception. Her original article on this story was basically a bunch of good questions about the lawsuit, including things like “How do they even know the monkey’s name is Naruto?” and “Can monkeys even sue?” Amazingly, PETA’s lawyer agreed to be interviewed by Sarah, and the results are totally worth reading. She starts out by exploring the question of Naruto. How do they know his name, how are they sure it’s really Naruto in the photos — especially since Naruto is a male and nearly all of the original stories about the monkey selfie claimed that the macaque selfie photo was of a female. Slater himself has said that it was a female.

Jeong doesn’t quite get to the bottom of it, but there’s at least some evidence that the monkey really was a male, and it’s entirely possible that he’s been named Naruto by the folks who study the monkeys in Indonesia. But then there’s the legal discussion. I will just give you this snippet and then tell you that you need to go read the whole thing. Also, news would be a lot more interesting if journalists did interviews like this more frequently.

Does Naruto know about this lawsuit?


Um, the? fact here is that Naruto is unable to come into court himself and so we are standing as Next Friend. Your question is silly, frankly. The issue is as I?ve stated it.

Does Naruto know about his selfies?


I have the same response.

Naruto certainly knew at the time that he was engaged in intentional conduct that is obvious from Mr. Slater?s own description of the situation. And Naruto clearly engaged in the purposeful intentional conduct that resulted in the creation of the selfies.

There’s more and it gets better. I, for one, can’t wait to see if someone tries to list Naruto as a witness.

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Comments on “PETA Defends Its Rights To Represent The Selfie-Taking Monkey In Court”

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Socrates says:

Re: Faking for money

I consider PETA, WWF, Greenpeace and so on, to be money collection organizations. And little else.

The “facts” they present usually isn’t. I suffered through a WWF “documentary” about smuggling of birds that were so internally inconsistent it hurt. With the reward for the smugglers several normal life incomes (if the birds arrived healthy), the risk of getting caught significant, and the number of birds low. Yet they were treated haphazardly. Completely unbelievable.

I suffered through a Greenpeace “documentary” where they claimed that someone torturing seals were Norwegian seal hunters. It didn’t make sense, and was later proved to be the “environmentalists” themselves that did the torturing. The hunters themselves said so from the start, and said that even the ice were wrong, but many didn’t believe them until it were proved.

I suffered through a Sea-Shepard “documentary” about dolphin hunting in Japan. With demonstrators showing signs of “don’t photograph us”. And aggressive Japanese doing face in the camera perspective. Completely staged.

But at least Greenpeace have sailed their gas guzzler to Norway, and flown their helicopter around a bird mountain “to protect it”, and thereby freezing all the chicks to death. Because they flew close enough to scare the birds.

It is sad that they are fake, because it would be nice if the earth is habitable in the future too.

Whoever says:

I have always thought that David Slater really does own the copyright ....

I have always thought that David Slater really does own the copyright …. but that is because I don’t believe the story about it being a selfie.

I think that Mr. Slater took the photo (perhaps remotely) but thought that the “monkey selfie” story would make the photo more valuable. He did not consider the ownership implications of declaring it a monkey selfie. Now, of course, he can’t retract the claim.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: I have always thought that David Slater really does own the copyright ....

Actually, given the license accompanying many professional cameras, the manufacturer of the camera probably has the best claim to the photo. We saw stories some time back here on TD about how several companies were claiming partial (or more) rights to anything you took with their cameras.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: I have always thought that David Slater really does own the copyright ....

“thought that the “monkey selfie” story would make the photo more valuable”

Well, he was right about that. In fact, it’s so valuable that it can’t be copyrighted and hoarded by a single human being, and instead belongs to the pubic. That he hasn’t worked out a way to personally profit from it, other than failed attempts at crying to a court, is none of our concern.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Misgendered

“Social justice warriors” are a bogeyman you almost entirely made up in your own head, as evidenced by comments like this. For everyone one person who actually crosses the line into ludicrous with their pursuit of social justice, there are a dozen utterly invented ideas like this one from people who are terrified of social progress. The disturbing thing is it’ll probably evolve into an accepted truth – right now it’s your weak jibe, within a few days it’ll be gleefully mocked on MRA forums as if it’s a real thing, all without anyone ever sincerely raising this objection.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Misgendered

Now now, Leigh, a punch up between one of the ludicrous cartoon PC/SJW types and PETA would be worth buying tickets for. Let Dan T. have his fun.

For the record I’m in favour of ACTUAL social justice; I think we all agree that the noisy, strident ones tend to get in the way of what they purport to be trying to achieve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

CP charges have to do with posession, not just production. Meaning everyone who’s read any of the TD articles or the Wikipedia article are guilty. As is the PETA lawyer.

It’s an interesting parallel between monkey copyright and minor copyright though — if my baby took a selfie and I shared it on the Internet, who would hold the copyright, and how would it be managed? If someone used the image without my baby’s permission, would the baby have to go to court over it, or could I do so as legal guardian?

So, if the apes have a legal guardian, can that person (being a person) assume copyrights that the original non-legal-entity couldn’t?

And how does any of this promote the useful sciences and arts?

Anonymous Coward says:

What I question is who appointed PETA to act on the monkey’s best interests? I imagine they saw an opportunity to license the photo out and so they’re trying to nab the copyright of the photo, and that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

Just because you’re an animal rights group doesn’t mean you get automatic rights to anything animals do.

Anonymous Coward says:


Sorry, your post was already published by the Library of Babel, typoes and all, I bookmarked it for you:

Seems you are just a pirate copying pages from the Lbrary of Babel.

The library of babel contains every text that ever has or ever will be written. Impossible you say? Go try their search function and find out for yourself.

Since the Library of Babel has already published all text that will ever be created does it hold the copyright to all future text?

Oddly enough there is even a page about OOTB in the Library of Babel.,ph,14

There is even some advice written for OOTB:,bgn297

Now go visit the library and prepare to have your mind blown and return here to discuss how this changes copyright!

RD says:

Thank God for PETA!

Thank God for PETA! No, really. I am *so* glad they are here to enforce the monkey’s correct and proper copyright so it will ensure that he is encouraged to make more art to promote the progress of arts and useful science.

Just like the copyright clause was written for.

I can’t wait until 70 years after the monkey dies…imagine the *amazing* stuff he will create then!!

Zonker says:

Jeffrey Kerr

…ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Naruto. Naruto is a macaque from Indonesia. But Naruto’s name is Japanese. Now think about it; that does not make sense!

Gerald Broflovski

Damn it! … He’s using the Macaque attack!

Jeffrey Kerr

Why would a Naurto, a 2-foot-tall macaque, want copyrights on his selfie managed by PETA, by a bunch of 6-foot-tall humans? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense! Look at me. I’m a lawyer for PETA, and I’m talkin’ about Naruto! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you’re in that jury room deliberatin’ and conjugatin’ the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Naruto took a selfie, you must give PETA his copyrights! The plaintiff rests.

Wyrm (profile) says:

I really love how they dance around the difficult question and stick to one thing (other than jurisdiction and venue shopping) that comes down to “the monkey knew there was a relation of cause and effect between its reflection and the shutter” (which makes no sense by itself).

The main fact that it doesn’t know the shutter results in a picture is irrelevant to them despite the fact that it’s the core of the question: creating art must be intentional to be qualified for copyright. It’s not enough that you “intentionally” push the shutter if you don’t intend to make the picture. There must be choice, decision, you can’t create a random picture or text through algorithm, even with “intentional actions” (you have to program the random picture/text generator) and pretend for copyright.

Moreover, “Naruto” will not be able to explain that he intentionally pressed the shutter button as opposed to pressing it accidentally or blindly mimicking what the human did.

That’s why copyright can only go to humans, not animals… at least until we can communicate with them about our legal standards.

Then again, if we want to apply human laws to animals, I feel like we might have to answer for a lot more than a few copyright issues. Deforestation? That’s basically destruction of their private property. Hunting or slaughter? Roughly equals murder. And we can go on with slavery, discrimination, genocide…
Does PETA really want to go that route? Then again, after what I heard about them, that might not even be surprising.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The real purpose of PETA is actually your last paragraph.

Animals don’t have rights. At least, not the same as humans. We can kill them at our convenience, or use them for whatever we want to (we may have some regulations, but those are just small details when compared to killing the animal).

Now, if this case, by any chance, goes through; it means that there is a court that has recognized an animal the same rights as humans.

And obviously, if a right like copyright is recognized, something of a higher? level, like the right to live, has to be recognized too.

Why the copyright approach? Maybe because it has more loopholes?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Why the copyright approach? Maybe because it has more loopholes?”

That’s a really scary thought when you think about it.

Looking back at a lot copyright cases, it seems that the moment copyright comes into question a lot of rationale gets thrown out of the window. Grandmothers be damned, them life + 70 copyrights gotta be enforced or society is fucked!

Admittedly, lots of people have been regularly using copyright law abuse to get the results they want. That doesn’t make this logical leap from PETA less scary, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Of course it’s a scary leap.

If animals get their copyright, I hope you like your soylent greens.

Because next are the plants. Just because they don’t move and don’t go “uga uga” doesn’t mean that they aren’t allowed to copyright their selfies.

How can a plant take a selfie?

Obviously, with copyrights.

Monday (profile) says:

Is this just a Monkey?

I can’t get past the freakin’ smile that Monkey has. I try to read the article, and I am glued on that pic and laughing my ass off!!!

It’s just smiling with that sinister grin and I swear to God I see a “Fuck y’all Y’all!” smile.

I didn’t even know this existed. It’s going out to everyone I know.

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