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Monkey selfie copyright ruled as not capable of monkey ownership, after motion to dismiss denied

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 27 April 2018

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Last year one of the biggest IP stories was in respect of the monkey selfie.

As a quick recap, David Slater had a surprise on his holiday in Indonesia as monkey Naruto took a ‘selfie’ with his camera.

This photo went viral, which discussions about ownership of copyright.

PETA, the animal charity, argued in 2015 that the monies made from the huge popularity of the picture was owed to the monkey and his preservation as the copyright ownership was vested in him.

David Slater combated this arguing that a monkey could not be the owner of copyright. In any event, he argued that all positioning and effort in obtaining such picture of the monkeys was through his actions.

The matter was disputed through the courts of the US, landing in the Ninth Circuit appeal court in July 2017. While the Ninth Circuit court was considering their ruling, the parties reached a settlement agreement.

At the end of last year, the parties agreed that 25% of future proceeds from “any or all of the monkey selfies” will be donated to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia.

To confirm this settlement, Slater and PETA filed a motion to dismiss the case. However, this motion was denied by the Ninth Circuit who wanted to have their say.

The Court held that Naruto the monkey lacked legal standing as a copyright owner as the Copyright Act does not expressly authorise animals the right to be copyright owners.

It is not clear whether the case will now rattle on further or if both parties will stick to the settlement agreement.

The picture may be crystal clear, but the case has been anything but.

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