Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)’s motion to dismiss and vacate a district court’s ruling that only humans can author copyrightable works. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) had filed an amicus brief opposing this motion in Naruto v. Slater and is pleased with the court’s decision.
“The Ninth Circuit rejected PETA’s attempt to strategically dismiss a case they lost,” said CEI attorney Frank Bednarz. “The panel can now affirm a precedent that protects professionals and small businesses from frivolous lawsuits by activists purporting to represent animals they’ve never even met.”
PETA brought its ridiculous complaint in 2015 on the supposed behalf of Naruto, a crested macaques monkey PETA claimed had taken the popular “monkey selfie.” PETA argued that animals could be authors under the Copyright Act, so Naruto was entitled to royalties from the photographer and a publishing company that printed copies of the photo. The judge found this bananas, granting dismissal while noting that the Copyright Office had specifically rejected animal authorship before the suit was even filed.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit panel further questioned PETA’s standing to sue on behalf of Naruto given that PETA showed no relationship to the Indonesian monkey. After oral argument, PETA settled with the defendants. The undisclosed agreement required defendants to request that the court vacate the district court’s judgment against PETA and Naruto. Because no party could speak up in favor of the district court’s order, CEI filed an amicus brief opposing vacatur of the district court’s decision, and suggesting that the panel could issue an opinion because the case was fully argued.