Common sense has prevailed after a US court ruled animals cannot file copyright infringement lawsuits, in the ongoing case between animal rights group PETA and photographer David Slater.
The final ruling came after the initial decision made by a lower court. The dispute arose when PETA sued Slater in 2015 – doing so, they claim, on behalf of the monkey. PETA allegedly disagreed with Slater profiting from the images since the monkey had been the one to press the shutter and thus was, in theory, the copyright holder.
The opposing sides reached a settlement last year, which in part saw Slater agree to donate 25% of his profits from the photos to charities to protect the monkeys featured within the photos. As we reported, this was rejected by the courts who seemingly wanted to affirm a “legal precedent” for any similar cases that may emerge in future. Now, it has been decided: animals cannot file copyright lawsuits.
The court also criticized PETA, questioning their intentions and suggesting they used the monkey for their own personal gain.
[…] PETA appears to have failed to live up to the title of “friend.” […] [I]n the wake of PETA’s proposed dismissal, Naruto is left without an advocate, his supposed “friend” having abandoned Naruto’s substantive claims in what appears to be an effort to prevent the publication of a decision adverse to PETA’s institutional interests. Were he capable of recognizing this abandonment, we wonder whether Naruto might initiate an action for breach of confidential relationship against his (former) next friend, PETA, for its failure to pursue his interests before its own. Puzzlingly, while representing to the world that “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way,” PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals.
As for next steps, we’ll have to wait and see if PETA make any counter-claims against the ruling. For now, we’re left with a quote from PETA’s lawyer Jeff Kerr, who simply stated to TIME: “[The monkey] Naruto should be considered the author and copyright owner, and he shouldn’t be treated any differently from any other creator simply because he happens to not be human.”