CEI Opposes PETA Monkey Business in Selfie Settlement

The Competitive Enterprise Institute filed an amicus brief today in Naruto v. Slater​ opposing the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)’s motion to vacate the district court’s ruling that only humans can own a copyright.

PETA brought its ridiculous complaint in 2015 on the supposed behalf of Naruto, a crested macaques monkey PETA alleged to have 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 requires defendants to request that the court vacate the district court’s judgment against 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.

“We are happy that defendants got the monkey off their back,” quipped CEI senior attorney Ted Frank. “But the district court’s order was well-reasoned and should stand against similar frivolous lawsuits. The Ninth Circuit should not permit PETA to erase its own embarrassing dismissal.”

See the brief here.