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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?

[pause]

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?

[pause]

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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Filed Under: copyright, david slater, monkey selfie, naruto, public domain
Companies: peta


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  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 1:55pm

    Your question is silly, frankly

    Says the man representing claiming to represent the copyright interests of a monkey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 1 Oct 2015 @ 12:58am

      Re:

      Does the man claiming to be representing the monkey have any signed documents in his possession granting him the legal authority to act on the monkey's behalf?

      If he lacks them, then he also lacks standing to sue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 1:56pm

    PETA

    People Eating Tasty Animals...

    The important question is!!!
    Has this monkey made it to the menu yet?

    Or in the actual case of PETA (the tree hugging kind)... the gas chambers?
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/peta-kills-puppies-kittens_b_2979220.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Socrates, 28 Sep 2015 @ 6:22pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:00pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rich, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:15pm

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

      If Slater took the photo, then it is by definition, not a "selfie."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:43pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 29 Sep 2015 @ 12:18am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan T., 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:03pm

    Misgendered

    Somebody misgendered the monkey! Quick, tell a social justice warrior!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), 29 Sep 2015 @ 10:09am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 30 Sep 2015 @ 5:30am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 12:19pm

      Re: Misgendered

      Simian justice warrior, shitlord.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:05pm

    I would love to see the engagement letter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ed B, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:10pm

    Good Grief

    What a bunch of Idiots these PETA folks are.

    Good luck to the PETA attorney. I hope you can bleed those fuckers for a few hundred thousand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vic, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:14pm

    Reading that original article you'll find out that this is a juvenile monkey (discussing it's sex) and on some of the photos you can see a part of it's penis.

    Uh-oh! I see child porn production and distribution charges coming (copyright holder's) way...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:22pm

      Re:

      Maybe Bobo was showing where the bad PETA member touched him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:27pm

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:26pm

    ootb hates it when Copyright Laws are so fubared, that PETA lawyers represents a macaque taking a selfie.

    You just can't make this shit up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:39pm

    This legal battle is going to drag on longer than Naruto the anime's final battle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:43pm

    This story has so many monkey wrenches involved it looks like it'll never be fixed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:59pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    all your TPP is belong to NSA, 28 Sep 2015 @ 3:02pm

    STOP

    i have a room full of naruto's on typewriters.....i own everything ever written thanks ot him and his friends....adn as there bestest friend i can sue you all

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RR, 28 Sep 2015 @ 3:27pm

    next step...

    Class action lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RD, 28 Sep 2015 @ 3:35pm

    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!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gothenem (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 3:41pm

    But...

    Perhaps some lawyer should represent the trees in the background. You know, publicity rights and all that. :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 28 Sep 2015 @ 3:56pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 4:22pm

    Oh for fucks sake. PETA are just trolling for publicity. Please, just ignore them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 2:41pm

      Re:

      No, because then they could win.

      "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." – Mahatma Gandhi

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 5:09pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 3:23am

      Re:

      creating art must be intentional to be qualified for copyright.



      Can a blind person hold the copyrights to a photo they took?
      What if the photo happens to catch a 12 year old boy masturbating?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 6:23am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 7:19am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 7:39am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 5:58pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Oh, no question that PETA's leap on its own is plenty scary.

            What's scarier is that if by some ungodly chance PETA gets their cause greenlit, that'd open more floodgates for more batshit demands.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 5:25pm

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

    If he bites someone would that make him a hostile witness?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 6:42pm

      Re:

      The poop-flinging alone is going to alienate the jury. Of course, the constant masturbation might win them back.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 7:01pm

        Re: Re:

        Given you're supposed to be tried by a jury of your peers, fill the jury with politicians and the crap flinging will seem perfectly normal to them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 5:37pm

    I will be suing PETA and Naruto

    Naruto signed the copyright over to me for a bushel of bananas. I will be filing suit to have the copyright assigned to me. To prove it, I will lay a picture of Naruto and a banana on the table. When he goes for the banana, it will prove that he sold the photo to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stan (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 5:41pm

    Factual Question

    How do we know that it was a selfie?


    Maybe the picture was actually taken by Naruto's cousin Bonzo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 28 Sep 2015 @ 6:55pm

    PETA

    Playmates
    Exposing
    Tender
    Assets

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 9:00pm

    I hope Mr. Naruto wears a suit to court.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ninja sensei, 28 Sep 2015 @ 10:25pm

    now now

    isn't this what we call a monkey suit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 3:59am

    hmmm

    If the monkey's name is "Naruto" does that mean the guy who wrote the manga could hold the copyright?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Monday (profile), 29 Sep 2015 @ 9:08am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 3:19pm

      Re: Is this just a Monkey?

      That is not a smile, that is a threat. Exposure of teeth by most animals is a warning that they are thinking of chewing on their opponent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 2:39pm

    The monkey is laughing at PETA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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