Monkey See, Monkey Do, But Judge Says Monkey Gets No Copyright
from the sorry-folks dept
A few weeks ago, we wrote about some details from the court hearing in the ridiculous monkey selfie case in which PETA (the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claimed not only that it represented Naruto, an Indonesian macaque monkey, but that the monkey should hold the copyright on this selfie:
Here, the Copyright Act does not ?plainly? extend the concept of authorship or statutory standing to animals. To the contrary, there is no mention of animals anywhere in the Act. The Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit have repeatedly referred to ?persons? or ?human beings? when analyzing authorship under the Act. See, e.g., Aalmuhammed v. Lee, 202 F.3d 1227, 1234 (9th Cir. 2000) (?[A]n author superintends the work by exercising control. This will likely be a person who has actually formed the picture by putting the persons in position, and arranging the place where the people are to be.?) (internal quotation marks, citations and modifications omitted) (emphasis added); Urantia Foundation v. Maaherra, 114 F.3d 955, 958 (9th Cir. 1997) (?For copyright purposes, however, a work is copyrightable if copyrightability is claimed by the first human beings who compiled, selected, coordinated, and arranged [the work].?) (emphasis added); Cmty. for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 490 U.S. 730, 737 (1989) (?As a general rule, the author is the party who actually creates the work, that is the person who translates an idea in a fixed, tangible expression entitled to copyright protection.?) (emphasis added). Despite Next Friends? assertion that declining to grant a monkey copyright to a photograph ?would depart from well-established norms,? Next Friends have not cited, and I have not found, a single case that expands the definition of authors to include animals.
And the judge is also convinced by the Copyright Office rejecting non-human copyrights as well:
Moreover, the Copyright Office agrees that works created by animals are not entitled to copyright protection. It directly addressed the issue of human authorship in the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices issued in December 2014 (the ?Compendium?). ?When interpreting the Copyright Act, [the courts] defer to the Copyright Office?s interpretations in the appropriate circumstances.?… In section 306 of the Compendium, entitled ?The Human Authorship Requirement,? the Copyright Office relies on citations from Trade-Mark Cases, 101 U.S. 94 (1879) and Burrow-Giles to conclude that it ?will register an original work of authorship, provided that the work was created by a human being.?… Similarly, in a section titled ?Works That Lack Human Authorship,? the Compendium states that, ?[t]o qualify as a work of ?authorship? a work must be created by a human being. Works that do not satisfy this requirement are not copyrightable.?… Specifically, the Copyright Office will not register works produced by ?nature, animals, or plants? including, by specific example, a ?photograph taken by a monkey.?
And thus, sucks for Naruto (and PETA):
Naruto is not an ?author? within the meaning of the Copyright Act. Next Friends argue that this result is ?antithetical? to the ?tremendous [public] interest in animal art.? … Perhaps. But that is an argument that should be made to Congress and the President, not to me. The issue for me is whether Next Friends have demonstrated that the Copyright Act confers standing upon Naruto. In light of the plain language of the Copyright Act, past judicial interpretations of the Act?s authorship requirement, and guidance from the Copyright Office, they have not.